Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Dark Heresy-Session 5

(Due to some surprisingly cunning timing on my part, the next session is tomorrow!)


The party returned, triumphant over the forces of chaos, to report back to the Interrogator. He received their news with no suspicion at the report of the death of Lazerus (which left out the whole getting shot in the back by his team mate situaton...), and upon hearing of the daemon that had aided their party, received it with some concern.

Karl informed the party that Marr had returned, and would have need of them tomorrow, and would probably have a replacement for them then. Most of the party retired to the medical facilities, as they sorely needed it. Meeting with Marr the next day, he introduced them to their new member, a tech priest by the name of Mallear, one adept with the mysteries of the machine spirit (how stuff works....).

He then gave the party their new assignment. The world of Barraspine (which I think I spell differently every time I write it), has a dark secret. It is rich with minerals, and so there is a large mining operation in place to take advantage of that, but every now and then, they strike more... dangerous materials. Looking like black chalk, the rock is embued with the essence of chaos, and wreaks havoc on those who find it. Not willing to condemn the whole planet, being a natural resource as it is, the habit on Baraspine has been to destroy the rock upon finding it, using a large quantity of explosives, which seems to break up any unnatural taint it has.

Marr, now, intended the party to deal with the next bit of rock, but before doing so, take off a small stick of it, and return it to him. While doing so they would pose as members of the adeptus arbites, the team that normally deal with the rock. The party felt some concern at this mission, but did not express it- they had been taught to trust their inquisitor beyond all, and the citizens of the imperium are nothing if not unquestionably obedient...

Marr gave them pagers, and told them he would contact them the next time the rock was found. This gave the party time to rest up, have their wounds heal, and also to make some purchases to upgrade or replace their weapons and armour.

Finally the call came, and they headed down to the mines. Level 1 is a deeply claustrophobic place, the walls tightly packed together, and the trains that lead to the many sections of mines rickety and shambolic. Still, they made it to the mine in question without too much trouble, but upon presenting their id discovered that someone had got there first. Somewhat shocked, Nicodemus still managed to put on an intimidating enough performance to convince the guard that letting them through would be the easiest thing to do, so they headed forwards.

Stepping into the mines, none noticed the tripwire across the floor, which let a huge bundle of rocks collapse on their heads. They managed to avoid too much injury, however (as, as per usual, I was rolling looooow). Further down the tunnels it forked into two path ways. Taking the left, they came across an odd scene.

Three mutants, dressed in miner's clothes, were attacking another, who was cowering in the corner. Seeing that they were mutants was enough for members of the inquisition, and battle was given. The mutants put up very little fight, only armed with picks and not wearing any armour, the party tore them apart. The remaining mutant thanked them, explaining that he had no idea what was going on. Helpfully, Cain pointed out that he had tentacles sprouting out of his face.

Nicodemus ended his wailing by pointing a gun at his face, and telling him to act as as their guide or face the consequences. The mutant agreed.

He led them back the way they came, taking the other arc until stopping abruptly.... "that wasn't there before".

There was a chamber with the bodies of 6 miners on the floor. Out of their bodies had spilled a sickly black blood, which had filled the chamber ankle deep with it. Stepping cautiously into it, Nicodemus discovered that the blood was highly acidic, and stepped back with alacrity. Instead, they decided to launch a rope onto the ceiling, and try to swing across. Cain and Nicodemus managed their swings fine, but at this point the corpses stood up....

One of them reached for the rope, and the party gave battle. They managed to kill the creatures, but not before the rope was dragged into the blood, and dissolved. Remembering that there had been rope attached to the trap earlier, the party headed back, and then noticed the large rocks that could probably be used as stepping stones. Taking these back, they made their way across.

At this point they rounded the corner to an ambush. A man dressed in the uniform of the adeptus arbites opened up with a heavy stubber. Diving into the room, the party took cover, and attempted to make pot shots. Little was effective, apart from Lek, who reached out into the man's mind, and caused his gun to spasm, flailing across the room, the bullets thudding into someone hidden from sight, who screamed in pain and died.

With the room no longer covered, the party charged forwards. Switching to his knife, the man gave battle against Jericus wielding a power spear, only to have it cleaved in two. In desperation, he grappled Jericus to the ground, but with 5 others outnumbering him, he had no real chance of survival.

Exploration of the room discovered an odd electronic timer. It appeared to be counting down..... It appeared to be a bomb.... Mallear grabbed it and attempted to disable it, but the machine spirit was unforthcoming, and he failed. Nicodemus took it, and with seconds left to spare, managed to halt the timer.

They headed forwards, until they came across a large, ornate door. "Thats curious," said the mutant, "that wasn't there before...."

Cain went forward and pushed it, and managed to keep his balance as his hand went through. There was a small pit on the over side, which the party managed to jump over without trouble. This led to a chamber with the hideous black rock. There was something wrong though- it looked like a lot of it was missing, and there was a collapsed corridor leading out of the room.

Still, there was certainly enough for a small sample. Sadly, being so close to the rock meant that their guide gave into the emenations, and turned on the party. He was easily cut down. They took the sample, set the demolitions, and then left, leaving the rest of the rock to be destroyed.


This session was my desire to have a dungeon crawl. I really want all my adventures to make sense, so throwing in standard dungeon puzzles would not work here- they had to make sense in the context of the adventure.

I had two main puzzles. The pool of blood needed crossing, and then the bomb needed defusing. Both had a solution in the previous room- the pool could be crossed using pirates style criss crossing, and the bomb could be thrown into the acid, which would fizzle it. Neither of these solutions were thought of by the party. They decided to swing across, which was fine, although a lot more dangerous for them, as falling in would not be good for their health, or their weapons and armour for that matter.

The bomb puzzle didn't go as I wanted mainly because I got confused by my own notes. I threw the climatic ambush at the party before the minor encounter of the door and the bomb, which led to it being somewhat anti-climactic. As a mini-encounter on the way it makes sense, but as the final barrier, an illusionary door is rubbish!

The bomb was meant to be solved by either dissolving it, disarming it, or throwing it under a mine cart and running for it. With the bomb thrown in with the ambush, it was kind of lame, and also didn't make all that much sense as to why they had the bomb in the same sodding room as them. Never mind.....

The ambush was a little surprising. The heavy stubber's comrade had a flamer, so if the party charged forwards, they were going to get set alight. Instead, thanks to Lek's spell, the flamer carrier got filled full with lead, as I was far more accurate at shooting at my own minions. Also, the spell Lek was casting was incredibly effective, because it meant the heavy stubber carrier didn't have enough time to open fire on his turns, being too busy getting up again. Never mind. Things going the players way is actually more fun anyway, especially in an amusing fashion as this was.

I possibly regret making the mutant turn on the party- it might have been more fun to let them defend him the next session, in a world which is highly suspicious of such creatures. This way removed the dilemma from their hands, which I think was a mistake.

I once again enjoyed having the wider background that the party get to peek at- something has gone on before they got here, but they're not sure who or why it has happened.

Ultimately this session lacked mostly in roleplaying, which is a shame- that was kind of what the mutant guide was there to provide a little bit of, and he could have played a bit of a bigger role. Never mind, I intend the next session or two to be fairly roleplaying intensive, with less combat.

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Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Dark Heresy-Session 4


The players, having defeated the enemy psyker, searched the room for loot and for clues as to what exactly he had been planning. Looking around they found a book that was clearly an artifact of chaos. One noticed that there was a glint coming from underneath the bed. They pushed it out of the way to reveal a glowing symbol, a disgusting sign of chaos, that threatened to warp their very sanity.

They immediately (well, actually, they had a bit of a discussion first...) attempted to destroy it, but found their weapons were ineffective. They would need to find something to eradicate it. Meanwhile, looking at the book proved difficult, but there was one passage which seemed to relate to the passage they had read, a riddle saying

"One in decay,
One in learning
One in Time
One in death"

Figuring this described the location of other similar symbols, they decided they would see if they could recruit help. The house was now eerily quiet, after the raucous noises that had pervaded it, and seemingly empty. An attempt at opening the door discovered it lock, and attempts to force it failed. Looking out of the window revealed a swirling mess of colour... Lek realised that they were in the warp itself! There would be no outside help.

The party split up to look for help. Exploring the upstairs discovered one in the bathroom, amidst much decay, and a few partygoers who were completely oblivious to the chaos around them.

As their explorations continued, odd events kept happening- small breezes, detached voices, and occasionally Lek felt as if there was an extreme disturbance in the warp around them. Time was definitely of the essence. Splitting up, Barak rounded the corner to encounter a disturbing sight. A heavily modified human being, half machine, waving a force spear, yelling that he wouldn't let them kill him.

Startled, Barak didn't ask questions, and opened fire, but missed in his panic, and was struck heavily by the glowing spear, knocked to the floor unconcious.

Hearing the commotion the others moved to investigate, and the madman burst through the door. Trying to talk this time yielded some information. The man had been called to do some work in the house- he wasn't too forthcoming on what it actually involved. Then the disturbance had happened, and things had got extremely weird. He had run out here after destroying a weird symbol....

At this point the man's eyes grew red, and he yelled and leapt at the party. A bloody combat ensued, as he wielded the deadly weapon against the party. During it, Lazerus, the party's guardsmen, was shot in the back by his own team member, Cain, and fell to the floor. The force spear proved dangerous, splitting two weapons in two, before the madman was finally dispatched.

Jericus picked up the powerful weapon to replace his own, torn in two by it's power field. They went to check Lazerus, who managed to pull himself up. Discussing what to do next, they were somewhat surprised to see Lazerus disappear before their eyes. Worry was replaced with calm as he managed to reappear a few moments later.

So when Lazerus vanished yet again, most of them ignored it. Unfortunately, this time he was not invisible. Lazerus found himself in a dark room with an odd presence....

The others continued onwards, discovering the kitchen, where some delicious cooking was revealed to be the chef, much to the disgust of several of those who had already eaten it. Moving onwards, they discovered the broken symbol. Realising that the spear was the key to destroying these, they endevaoured to find the rest and end them as well.

At this point Lazerus reappeared, but instantly Nicodemus realised there was something wrong. Lazerus was acting oddly, and was unable to understand the acolytes code. Nic decided not to be cautious, and unloaded his shotgun. Lazerus collapsed, the spirit departing, but his body still injured.

Needing all the help they could get, the party stimmed Lazerus up, and continued to explore the house. A thorough exploration revealed all the remaining symbols, which they managed to destroy (with some minor upsets along the way, as the house attempted to resist them). With the last one destroyed, the house was free... Except there seemed to a presence still outside.

Heading downstairs, they discovered 5 twisted daemonettes of chaos standing outside, having managed to slip through the rift. They gave battle. Lazerus, stimmed up and not thinking clearly, charged forwards, bearing the full brunt of their attacks. Things looked desperate. Lek fainted at the pure shock of seeing such beings, and the party seemed outclassed.

At this point ANOTHER daemon appeared, this time looking more like a man, but twisted an malformed, with large blue wings carrying it aloft. Thinking they were doomed, the party was very much surprise when the Daemon gave battle against their assailants, destroying them in short order.

"It's been very pleasent working with you gentlemen. I shall see you around, fools of fortune...."

The daemon flew off. The battle was finished, but not without a price. Before the daemonettes could be defeated, Lazerus, already heavily wounded, had been brutally killed.


This was a harsh session on the characters. As they had no chance to rest since last session, most of them were already damaged, so all were in danger of death. Of course, they would have suffered no casualties if Steve had not decided to shoot into combat, and Antony to not charge the bloody daemons!

This session wasn't perfect. There was a very long hiatus between this and the previous one, and in between I had little time to see what notes I'd written. On the night itself I had to work with what I'd got. If I'd put more effort in I think I would have planned more carefully. The mechanic for deciding how many daemonettes the party would face at the end was based basically on how long they took to solve the puzzles, and could have used a bit more finesse.

My biggest regret was not allowing Antony to roleplay his character when possessed. Not only would it have been more fun, it might have been a bit more of a surprise when he betrayed them!

Still, this session was intended as a bit of a betrayal tribute, and on that manner I believe it succeeded. A few more events and omens might have been fun though!

At some points I was very glad Nick was paying attention, as I suspect no-one would have realised how to destroy the sodding symbols, but never mind. I actually would have allowed offensive psychic powers to damage the symbols as well, but as Kerrith's psyker doesn't have any, that would have been no good.

The introduction of the daemonhost was fun, with it's ridiculous power level proving quite astonishing. A will power of 95 indeed (out of 100). Nick, I suspect, has some idea of the broad plot of this campaign, which is fine, although I imagine I shall be able to provide a few twists and turns yet.

This section of the campaign was originally not going to be attached to the main plot, one of the main reasons an interrogator rather than the inquistior gave it to them, but I decided it made more sense to tie it in. There are more subtle ties again that the players cannot see but I know, which makes me happy. I like the world to have levels of detail that the players don't even see. This allows things to make sense, and for me to respond to unexpected player moves if they happen to infringe on plot elements.

Overall, while this session was somewhat combat heavy, it was not impossibly hard, and some smarter choices would have left the players more or less unharmed. I suspect that if I was doing it again I would have made the symbols a little harder to find, with more puzzlement attached to them, but never mind.

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Monday, April 28, 2008

Dark Heresy- Session 3


Succesfully convincing the administrator that they were actually law abiding citizens rather than cold blooded murderers, the paryt then headed off. They decided they wanted to take their ship and the ship the two cultists had landed in back, but this presented a problem, as only Jericus could fly. Luckily, Inditor Larsen could fly. Unluckily, Larsen was the other member of the drug ring, and tried to fly the plane in the opposite direction. After a rather fraught journey, in which the plane almost went straight into the desert floor, the party managed to subdue Larsen and get back to the planet, where they reported to Interrogator Karl.

Karl was pleased with their progress, and let them take responsbility for further investigation. Interrogation of the prisoners, along with research into the Hardlight corporation, the name printed on the ship they had returned, yielded that the corporation was owned by a Lord Melchit Hawthorne, the ruler of level 35. It also gave the address of the Hardlight warehouse.

Visiting Lord Melchit sadly yielded little of value, as this estate was well guarded, and an attempt to bluff their way in failed. The visit to the warehouse proved somewhat more satisfactory, however, finding an abandoned building with one lonelyl guard, who happily relayed that Melchit's son, Lintel, was in charge of managing the facility, and had run it into the ground, although not before taking most of the ships they used for transport. He also mentioned that Lintel had invited him to a party, and happily gave up his invite.

After a brief discussion, they decided to head for the party, discovering it in full motion, with the guards themselves semi-paralytic. The party was the home of levels of depravity none of them had encountered before, with acts being performed that one would have throught impossible, let alone illegal. They decided to head upstairs, and immediately came across a locked door. Nicodemus managed to pick the lock, and they burst in on Lintel and four bodyguards, with Lintel performing a curious magical ritual.

"You're too late to stop me now, whoever you are!" Lintel yelled, and battle was joined. Despite being elite guard, the bodyguards managed to fail to put up much of a show of resilience, and the party managed to defeat them and Lintel, although not before Lintel had pressed a button on a remote he had been carrying......


I enjoyed this session, once again there was more roleplaying. The initial fight for the ship was utterly spontaneous. It had not occured to me that the players would want to take both ships back, and as they had failed to uncover Baltek's co-conspirator, I thought they could face the rather amusing consequences.

My main regret about the interrogation was not providing a few more leads for the party to take, to at least give the illusion of free will- perhaps only two was a bit lame, but never mind. The party's failure to access Hawthorne's estate was not inevitable, however. If they had taken a more honest approach Melchit would have had no reason not to co-operate, and indeed would have provided all the party with invites.

The invite issue was somewhat amusing. Having garnered only one, they assumed that they would only be able to get at most 2 of them inside. Considering the level of the adventure coming, and the fact that they would be sealed inside the house next session, I really did not want this to happen, and luckily they went for a look and discovered that the supposed bouncers were really not doing their jobs.

Once in the house they managed to head directly for the sodding room without even a moment of discussion, which was somewhat disappointing. Seeing as after this room was done the party would be virtually empty, my hard work of writing up scenes for every single room went rather wasted, but never mind....

This session took a little longer than I thought it would, thanks to the inital combat. Also I have a tendency to underestimate how much time combat will take- I should try to avoid throwing too many combats into one session.

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Dark Heresy- Session 2

(Note- I only have four more sessions to go through before I'm caught up, so don't worry too much about this turning into a purely DH blog!)


Returning from space, the much injured and tired party were confronted by Inquistor Marr upon making landfall. Hearing them tell him what had happened, he rushed off to Scintilla, the capital planet of the sector, to attempt to investigate who had sent the assasin against them. He gave the players some money and told them that one of his interrogators (under bosses) would have need of them in a few days.

After some much needed recovery, and some unneeded but greedy shopping, the party reported for duty before the interrogator. Markus Karl had been investigating the incursion into the hive of alien creatures native to the planet called storm wolves- vicious hounds with massive claws and teeth, to enable them to escape the terrible storms of the planet and also to tear apart their prey, the starfren. Somehow they'd been introduced into the hive, a strictly illegal act in an imperium which regulates carefully it's citizen's contact with xenoc life form.

He had finally found a lead- a research facility on the surface of the planet had been conducting experiments on the native life, and several unregistered flights had been recorded to and from it. In addition, it was known that there was a strong drugs problem at the base, and Karl had put two and two together.

The party's duty would be to infiltrate the base, posing as rich relatives of Lord Cafren (the governer of the planet), and try and find out who was running the ring, and, more importantly, who they were selling it to.

They headed out, with Jericus, the party's cleric, flying them out with reasonable skill. They were met with a pleasent welcome by the bases administrator, scholar Plundit. He gave them a brief tour, introducing them to the small team, and showing them the progress on the research. The aim was to control the creatures of the planet, with mixed success. While the starfren, a large bovine creature with a spiked tail, had not taken at all, the stormwolves seemed to be far more responsive to the control circuits being used.

The party had a chance to talk to some of the researchers, and soon discovered that some were clearly suffering from withdrawal- the implication was the base was dry of the drug. One of the addicts let slip that they would only have to wait "one more day".

More conversation revealed a potential ally, Inditor Cormak, the head of the storm wolf project, who told them who he believed to be behind the scheme, Baltek, and also that he must have some support from either the other project head, or Plundit himself, to be able to open the dome to allow planes to land. Nicodemus managed to strike up a conversation with Baltek himself. Baltek, always eager for more money, easily fell for Nicodemus' spiel, and told him that he would be able to provide more drugs that very night, by the time midnight had passed.

With a clear time of arrival, the party set in wait, taking positions in the hanger. Baltek walked in, flanked by two stormwolves, not noticing the carefully concealed party, and called in the ship. It landed, and two men came out. At this point, however, one of them spotted Barak, who had failed to be sufficiently careful while attempting to conceal himself. They opened fire.

A vicious combat ensued, but wrongfooted there was no chance of victory for the drug smugglers. A moment of panic ensued when Baltek tried to set loose all the wolves in the building... then Jericus accidentally did it for him! Luckily they were able to stop the wolves before much harm was done, but not without rousing the entire base, who were somewhat surprised to discover the tableau presented with them.


I was quite pleased with this session. I enjoy roleplayingie sessions, which is primarily what this involved, although it did have a short combat at the end (which seemed to go on forever, thanks to a failure on all parts to hit a barn door). It required a fair amount of preperation, and this adventure actually began as a murder mystery, but mutated into this when I decided I wanted the base linked to the surface, and also to the wider plot arc I have planned for the campaign.

Of course this adventure arc is one of those times where the actual plot goes over the players heads, and happens in the background, but thats all for the good.

I had expected the players to go for the easier root of trying to acquire drugs initially, and the adventure was somewhat biased in favour of that approach. However, their inital goal was instead to find someone sympathetic to their aims, and convert him to their cause. Luckily I had written such a character into the adventure, so such an approach did bear fruit, and they did end up managing to chat to Baltek in the end anyway.

There was one point where I was rather nice to the party, where Barak almost blurted out their knowledge in front of Baltek, which would almost certainly have resulted in all the storm wolves released on the base, and a much harder conclusion. I wanred Andy that Baltek was sitting at the same table, which was enough notice, and he rephrased his remarks.

I have a tendency in writing adventures to not clearly write the conclusion. In the previous session, my notes had given me no preperation for the adventurers getting down to the planet again. While there was an orbital craft, no-one in the party would be able to use it, so a rescue ship was required. Again in this session, I had not really considered what would happen after they triumphed... obviously the rest of the members of the base might find a vicious firefight under their roof somewhat amiss. An appeal to authority never goes wrong, of course, and I was able to decide what would happen on the fly, but preparing more for this in future would make sense.

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Saturday, April 26, 2008

Dark Heresy session 1

(these first few entries are based on my memories of something that happened a few months ago! NOTE: I begin by going through the story for the session in some detail, and then reflect on the session )


This session began with all the characters meeting each other, having each undertaken inquisitorial training for several intensive and harrowing months. They were summoned to meet their Inquisitor at his headquarters, and after a stony reception from the front desk, made their way to him, where he introduced himself and told them of their first task.

A simple enough matter- meet an old friend up in orbit, then escort him down to the planet, along with the valuable item he happened to be carrying. A trip to the spaceport, and an emptying of stomachs from space travel later, and they were at the ship, meeting Lexographer Ralt, who, in a rather brash manner, told them they had interrupted his dinner, and he'd just go back and eat it if that was alright?

Considering he walked away without asking, and the ships captain had confined the party to their boarding vessel, it might as well have been. At this point, something went wrong, and Ralt returned to announce the presence of an eversor assasin on board. In panic the party wished to escape, but, of course, Ralt had left the item of immense value on board.

So the party went to recover it (discovering an intriguing black case...), discovering the bodies of the crew along the way, and headed back to their ship... where they found the assasin and the body of Ralt. The assasin appeared to be frozen in time from a stasis grenade (one of which the party had), but the ship was no longer functonal. They would need to commandeer the vessel to escape.

A voice ran out over the intercom- the captain announcing that he had called for help, but they would take a while to arrive. The party explored forwards, heading down a ladder when the way up was blocked.

Exploration of the bottom level revealed a hidden door, which led to a store room full of illict goods. Stepping in, however, an intimidating security voice asked for a password, which the party could not provide. After some warning, two chainsaw wielding servitors appeared, looking incredibly intimidating.

The party retreated, and explored the rest of the level, discovering the large hanger where the more legitimate goods were held, and a surface lander stored within it. The landers door was locked, and they could not work out how to get it open.

Heading back, they decided to chance the storage room, sending the assasin,Cain,to grab something fast and get out again, hoping to steal something good away before they were cut in two by the servitors.

Sadly.... this didn't go too well. While Cain managed to grab a nifty looking grenade, he was almost sliced in two by the servitor, flying back against a wall and falling unconsious. A frantic combat emerged, with the servitors defeated by sheer weight of numbers and some suprisingly inept actions from the deadly robots.

However, this noise appeared to have attracted the assasin. Taking positions for an ambush, Nicodemus readied the grenade dropped by Cain. Not having a chance to examine it, he took a chance and threw it as the assasin came leaping through the door. The assasin, perhaps wrong footed by the sudden assault, failed to dodge despite his unnatural reflexes, and the grenade exploded, tearing a whole in the very fabric of reality, and dragging the assasin with it.

Unfortunately, because they had no idea what was coming out of the grenade, the party was wrong footed by this, and almost dragged into the warp with it! By the bearest skin of their teeth they managed to avoid it, although they almost got pulled into space in the hole left afterwards.....

With the assasin dealt with, the party was able to search the rest of the ship, and call for rescue, which came swiflty. The captain had died, the door to his cabin torn off, indeed the only surviving member of crew was the ships chef, who had hidden in the kitchen, cowering holding only a cleaver for protection.


I was quite pleased with this session. It was my first time being a gm since I was about 14, and it went reasonably. The plot hung together well, being a linear railroad as it was. While the plot is a little railroady throughout this campaign, I'm fairly happy with it being that way- it enables me to tell a story more easily, and is also just much easier to deal with. The next campaign I run I will endevaour to make a little more free flowing, but this is fine.

There were some interesting points- the players headed downstairs immediately, as they were supposed to, but they could have explored the current level more- doing so would have discovered the chef, who would have told them about the hidden room, and given them a good idea of the password for them, as well as inform them of the location of the codes (the captains cabin).

Still, the main problem was that the party became convinced they would never be able to climb up again- the way up was sealed by the captain, but they did not put two and two together when there was a loud explosion from above- the assasin breaking through the seal. This meant they decided to fight the servitors. This was fine, but I possibly could have made it more clear there were more options.

I also regret throwing the assasin at them when I did- it would have been more fun to have let them hear it moving about... but not appear. However, they did have the grenade at this point, which was more than enough to defeat it. Of course they might have had time to examine it and not almost kill all of them!

My ability to fail to hit any of the party worked in the favour, including the assasin failing to dodge the grenade! I had intended for the assasin to just escape, but then the party would have to fight to push it in. Impressively I managed to roll a 96, with a chance of success of about 85%!

While this session was a little severe, I had no real problems with it, as it was the first, and I had always intended to make it a bit nasty.

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(Incidentally, if you are familiar with role playing games, you probably will not get much out of this post!)

Roleplaying games (the non sexual kind) have a rather unpleasent sheen in society. People who play it are often characterised as spotty nerds with absolutely no comprehension of womenfolk. That this is sometimes true does not necessarily undermine the hobby itself. While associated with dragons, goblins and ghosts, it is a much varied hobby, with various systems in it.

The genius really lies in that roleplaying games aren't necessarily games. While there can be minor victories along the path, there is no real victory condition per se in the structure. Instead the games master tells a story, and the player explores it. The players act within the rules of the system. They cannot invent what is happening- thats for the games master to do- but instead decribe their characters actions. Often when they attempt to do something they need to make a roll to determine if they can do it or not. Their abilities to perform various actions depend on the character they are playing- a very intelligent character may be able to decode a cypher, but might have difficulty breaking down a door for example. While some systems have no rolling at all, this is rare, as by having dice it adds an element of chance which can make things a little more interesting. Additionally, without dice there comes a problem of the games master deciding if an action is succesful or not, which could lead to some vicious arguments.

Essentially this is make pretend from childhood, but with far more structure. The goal is not to win, but to co-operate with other players to explore the story the games master is telling. The story can range from a simple exploration of a dungeon to a political intrigue spanning continents. I really think pretty much anyone with an imagination can enjoy roleplaying, if they can get into the system.

Possibly part of the problem is that the most popular system, dungeons and dragons, is extremely complicated. The process of creating one's character seems absurd, with a whole list of things to calculate, which can take away from the game. Theres nothing wrong with this, but this can seem quite dense to a beginner. D and D is pretty much aimed at the converted really, and has several complications beyond this which makes other gamers not enjoy it that much.

I am personally running a campaign set in the warhammer 40,000 universe, a grim version of the future, called Dark Heresy, where the players are members of the inquisition, an orginasation determined to root out aliens and heretics from human existence. It is a relatively complex system, but the character generation is somewhat less involved, and all the better for it. I have decided to begin blogging my sessions, which you can read or not depending on your inclinations....

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Thursday, April 24, 2008


I am not a huge fan of exercise, and, speaking more broadly, sports. As a result I am somewhat overweight, and I like to phrase it in that particular way because it makes me sound like I am an ounce over the standard weight (whatever that might be) rather than, you know, a stone.

I think a lot of what is to blame is how sports are taught in this country. There has been much mockery pointed at those schools that have encouraged sports without winners, or where everyone is a winner (or, equivalently, losers). Indeed I have a tendency to join in on this. Sports without some element of competition do become somewhat more dull and less exhilarating. But I can see what the goal is. The problem is that the people who are the worst at sports are inclined to be mocked for this, which inclines them to disavow from sports all together, which creates an attitude like mine, where sports become somewhat of an anathema.

I'm not sure how to solve this one. Some people will never take to sports, but despite being terrible, there are sports I have enjoyed, mostly coming to them later in life. I think a lack of pressure may be key there- an encouragment to learn from mistakes, rather than being mocked from them. Sadly small and large boys are prone to become extremely irate if someone on their team is letting them down, so sports where team effort is not vital might work- tennis and badminton spring to mind, although there are many others.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Sorting things

It's kind of amusing to me that as a student I have to have a gaurantor for my contract, seeing as with my current funding I'm pretty well paid, but never mind. Many phone calls have been made to various peoples, and all the plan is coming together.

The most irritating part of this is talk talk. Talk talk are not a terrible provider once you have them. They have good rates, reasonable customer service, and their internet is not that bad (although I suspect bandwidth throttling on online games...). Still, the main problem with them is that they do not activate phone lines. This, as I may have mentioned when moving into this current flat, means that I have to activate it with bt, who will charge cancellation fees. Again. Sigh. Never mind, as I have 9 months more to go with the contract with talk talk, I better stick with them, but I suspect that when those months expire I might be tempted to switch to another provider. Admittedly we will be aiming to live in this new flat for a little longer than this current one, as moving house is somewhat expensive and time consuming.

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Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Moving house

We have taken the plunge, and are switching flats, moving to an altogether swankier flat with two whole bedrooms and a kitchen that is actually larger than a broom closet. For that matter, it actually has some closets, which will be a pleasant relief from a flat where it is difficult to find anywhere to store, well, anything....

Of course this will cost more, and there are lots of things to sort out, but we've cunningly done this in the middle of my coursework and exam period, so I'm sure it'll be fine... Heh, well I have actually done most of my coursework, I have merely to give it in on the thursday and friday of this week. I intend to give it in all in pretty much one go, because that will be more impressive and somewhat amusing. Well. For me anyhow.


Sunday, April 20, 2008

ten pence tax rate

There has been quite a hurrah about the ten pence tax rate recently. Basically, it will hurt the least well off and benefit the well off, a most regressive of moves from a labour governments. This has caused great concern and anger across the back benches at a time the party can ill afford it, with the local elections approaching. I cannot see Labour doing anything other than awfully this May.

The weird thing is, according to a report on the bbc I watched, not understanding the economics of the situation, that people who suffer the most are going to lose... 70 pounds or so a year. Thats right. 70 pounds. Can this really be true? Can Labour really be utterly destroying itself over 20 pounds itself? I'm all for progressive taxation, but of all the places to draw a line in the sand, is this really it? Not id cards or the 42 prison extension, but 70 pounds a year? There has been talk about packages to protect those worst hit by this... is anyone going to get THAT badly hit?

I assume that there is a larger amount affecting some people because it seems absurd to destroy your parties electoral chances over this if it truly is that minor....

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Thursday, April 17, 2008

Critical Hit

Yesterday I stepped outside to attend a compulsary lecture on statistical consulting. I stepped forward... and fell through a drain cover. Unsurprisingly I cried out in pain rather loudly, drawing the attention of two people on the street at the time (but no-one indoors... I was hardly quiet!), who hurried over as I pulled myself out. The moments are somewhat of a blur, but I believe only one leg actually went into the drain itself. It was all a bit confusing. One minute I was walking down the street and the next I was in extreme pain and half way down a drain.

Pulling myself out, I discovered that my leg could at least support me (as I jumped about shouting fuck repeatedly), and there was no obvious injury, and went inside to sit down, where I had the full shot of adrenaline my body had pumped in to me kick in. Adrenaline is a very strange thing- it got me to deal with the crisis at hand very easily, got me indoors, and then basically left me inactive for ten minutes, unable to think or do anything as I tried to get it together again. I have never suffered a panic attack before, but I imagine that is what they must be like. Of course mine was inspired by the top of my thigh falling very quickly into the ground/drain cover, and not psychological...

Once I had managed to get a bit of a grip, examination showed a slightly unpleasent cut and some scratches, but nothing majorly serious. I decided to pop to the doctors, which was just round the corner, and I figured I could limp there easily. Of course, they didn't have any doctors or nurses there, which meant I had to get on a bus to a walk in centre, which was somewhat frustrating, but I made my way there, where a nurse dressed the wound and told me what I pretty much already knew- that I was pretty much fine.

Still, I felt it was best to check, and headed back. I was, at this point, an hour and a half late for the lecture, but seeing as it was rather important and also three hours long, I thought it was worth going to.

So I managed to limp my way to the maths building, only to find the room it was meant to be in deserted. Sigh. A check of my emails revealed a room swap and that the session was only lasting until 4. It was quarter to three. Double sigh. Still, I decided to attend, if only to get any hand outs. There was one, but as it had been a mostly practical roleplaying session, my last minute attendance really didn't help that much!

Never mind, I appear to have recovered pretty well now, and am feeling far more chipper. I have also called someone to fix that sodding drain cover as well...


Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Drowning the sims

The game "The Sims", has proven hugely succesful, selling millions of copies across the world. It's a fairly simple game, where you control little people's lives- get them jobs, furnishing, design their houses, make them fall in love, have children and snub enemies. It's an amusing game, although frustrating because most of the sims have apparently had a lobotomy, and won't even go to the toilet unless you tell them. Instead they'll pee on the floor and get extremely upset.

This is actually a theme of a lot of god games where you are meant to look after some minions- they are often phenomenally stupid. See Black and White, where to get magical power you must get your worshippers to dance around a giant altar. Which is fine, but for some reason it doesn't occur to them that you're fine with them taking a break to, you know, eat, so they will dance and starve to death if you're not watching....

Another feature of the Sims is, that if you neglected them accidentally, they would die. Not horribly- they would simply be collected by a comedy grim reaper, or just fade into the sky. Now this is the feature that interested me the most.

After exploring the mundane version of the game, the REAL games begin. In my case, they included hiding their toilet in the middle of an extremely complex hedge maze, forcing them to naviagate it before they could relieve themselves (which they were surprisingly good at). Setting them in a room with no doors and lots of very flammible objects. Or, my favourite, putting a diving board on a pool but no ladder... so they can't get out once they have got in. One by one they make the jump of doom....

I have yet to meet a person who has NOT done this. I think it's more to do with exploring what the game allows. And also the extreme hatred you develop for the useless bundle of pixels as they refuse to perform the simplest of tasks without your aid. SIMS MUST DIE!


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Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Grand theft Auto

Recently there has been some eloquent defences of video gaming- this one in particular is a good read. For some reason though, during this, they will attempt to defend Grand Theft Auto.

Grand theft Auto is an excellent game. It's cleverly designed with a variety of different mission styles to keep you occupied, and an entire virtual world to be your playhouse. But it is not particularly moral. Many defenders of GTA mention that one is able to drive ambulances, fire engines and taxis. This is true. But you have to steal them first. You don't volunteer at the local station, you nick the things and then go out doing missions. Additionally, because the timing on these missions are quite harsh, you will inevitably end up killing more people than you save along the way, to earn the money the game inexpicably pays you.

GTA has some limits. There are no children in the game, although there are little old ladies, and you no longer get money simply for running people over in a row, as was possible in the first three games (which includes the first 3d title), although these avatars do drop money when they die. One lesson it does tend to teach you along the way is there is no way you could survive this in real life. Sooner or later you get gunned down by the police or rival gang members. You will die a lot....

Admittedly immediately after dying or being arrested you are free to roam the streets again, but it wouldn't be a very enjoyable gaming experience if you could not.

A lot of games give you the option to do bad things: they're games, and it's difficult to restrict what the player can do, but it is worth noticing that the missions do attempt some broad morality. Yes, many of your missions involve killing people, but they are rival gang members at least, often people who attacked you first. It's a broad morality, certainly, but perhaps it might be compared with films like the Godfather. Yes you can kill innocents too, but the game never tells you do this (although it did USE to, on optional extra missions called, tastefully, "kill frenzy").

Perhaps the best film to compare grand theft auto to, at least GTA3 anyhow, is Taxi Driver, where the action centres on a character you are absolutely not meant to sympathise with, and even when he does good, it is really for the wrong reasons.

Ultimately, the GTA games are violent and nasty, but they are games. The people are most definitely not real, and most people can detatch this from reality. The joy isn't in the idea that you are killing people, it's in the challenges you can do, in the meta gaming when you want to see what the game will allow, what you can get away with within the rule the designer created. This is not a game for children, but it never has been.

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Monday, April 14, 2008

fires of pompeii

Saturday's episode was awesome, in contrast to the previous week. Donna provided an excellent companion, actually disagreeing with him actively on the right course of action, and we got a rather nifty taste of the moral dilemma that the doctor has to face all over history.

The only weak bit was the inane ending, with the 6 month later follow up, which added nothing excepting an extremely lame gag.


Sunday, April 13, 2008


I have been quite pleased by the way Tibet has managed to take over the olympic celebrations, which are pretty meaningless. Despite the desperate please of some airhead athletes, this is the perfect time to bring attention to China's many abuses of human rights. The world is watching, and it is great news. I wonder though, if the protests had been entirely peaceful, if it would have proceeded as normal.

Of course, the description of protests in London as "violent" might be an exxageration. Perhaps things went to far elsewhere, but what exactly happened in London? Someone tried to grab the torch, and someone tried to extinguish it. Sorry, but thats kind of funny, and not particularly violent either. I hope the protesters brave enought to make this move are not too severely punished- after all it's more like a prank than breaking the law, the attempt to extinguish something thats on fire, with no intention to cause anyone involved physical harm.

The olympics really are a kind of meaningless event, despite the talks of the "olympic spirirt". What exactly is that supposed to mean? All it is is a contest between athletes, with a nice international rivalry thrown in for fun. So lets hijack it with politics, and, hell, it might actually become a little interesting.

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Saturday, April 12, 2008


Watching ER on thursday evening, I have to admit that it is becoming rather boring to watch. The new characters are simply uninteresting, and are often introduced only to leave a few episodes later- character arcs vanish completely for no apparent reason. Worse yet, Abby, possibly the strongest character the show has, has dissolved into alchoholism. She has always been an alchoholic, and has suffered possibly the worst of any character on the show. Now, for the altar of drama, she has perhaps hit her greatest low.

Sigh. This is a constant irritation in all these kind of shows. There is a need for drama, so characters suffer ridiculous amounts of adversity, because the writers don't know how to make happy interesting. This happens in things as far ranging as Friends, with the ridiculous subplot of Rachel and Joey which was interminable, and lasted far more seasons than it should, purely for the altar of drama. It certainly was not funny.

Perhaps it is time to end ER, if this is the best they can offer.

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Friday, April 11, 2008

Boris Johnson

According to the radio the other day, Boris supposedly has a chance of actually winning the mayoral election. He's not giving interviews or anything at the moment- there is a suspicion he is being hidden so he cannot say anything stupid and ruin his chances. Sigh. Boris Johnson... we'll be as bad as the US voting for Bush if he wins... he's a tit of a man, and has some awful views on various subjects.

Oh well, it's not like the mayor of London is a figure of awesome power, I just dislike the concept of legitimising Boris Johnson anymore than possible.

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Thursday, April 10, 2008

Judging a book by a Cover

Apparently this is something you are not meant to do, and perhaps for good reason, but lets face it, we all do it. And to be honest, it's never done me that badly. I recently got Temeraire by Naomi Novik out from the library, pretty much on the strength of the pretty cover- I had seen it for sale, and had almost got it then for the same reaon, but this way I get to read it for free, so go me.

I have to say I really enjoyed it- it's set in the Napoleonic wars, with England on the edge of losing, the twist being that in this world dragons exist, and are used by humans as a matter of air attack. Some of you may be aware of Napoleon's supposed plans to invade England- by air, sea and underground, of which only one managed to work. Well in this case instead of balloons he has dragons....

It was good fun. The blurb recommends it quite well, with a quote from the Times and the Telegraph, and randomly, Peter Jackson, but realistically the reason I was drawn to it was the pretty cover.

I think many book publishers are beginning to get it into their skulls that covers are important. Terry Pratchett novels no longer have the embarrasing fantasy drawings done by third rate artists on them, and the same with Neil Gaiman. It was always kind of embarrasing to read a book with people with lots of goofy expressions on the front, and often women in a state of undress, despite such a thing really not being the theme of the story at all....

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Absolutely hilarious


Tuesday, April 08, 2008


Buying an Xbox 360 gave me a chance to play Bioshock. Bioshock is a first person shooter, set in a rather gorgeous location- under the sea, in a place called Rapture.

Created by a rather fundementalist libertarian named Andrew Ryan, Rapture was created as a place to enforce his ideals. The game is set in the 50s, and as such the environments have a gorgeous art deco look, which makes the game look thoroughly great. Clearly something has gone wrong with Ryan's vision, as the world you descend into after your plane crashes is in chaos. The only friendly voice you hear explains how things have gone, along with various audio diaries you discover along the way. It seems that, with no restrictions of morality on science, genetic modification became the norm in rapture, until it has been torn apart with people desperate for more of the genetic currency called adam, to make their bodies even more powerful.

It's a good game, but i think it suffers from a rather odd flaw- too much action. The landscape is so interesting, I actually want more time to explore the locations, but because of the large proportion of enemies that attack you (and irritatingly often respawn in areas that were previously safe), it is difficult to do so. As such much of the beauty of the world the developers have created is missed, which is a shame.

Still, it's a lot of fun. I have yet to complete it yet.. I shall see how it goes


Monday, April 07, 2008

Amnesty hoodie

i have a rather nice amnesty hoodie, which I wear with pride, having chaired the bath student group back in the day. Normally this is a good thing, and leads to some interesting conversations on occasion.

However, sometimes it can be quite annoying. Perhaps understandably, charity sellers see the amnesty hoodie and assume I am going to listen to them. However, just because I do believe in human rights, does not mean I can bankroll every goddamn charity that can afford to hire people to pester me on the street! When I win the lottery, then they can come calling.....

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Sunday, April 06, 2008

Dr who last night

What is it with Russel T Davies and fat people and farty noises. Meh. Still, it was relatively enjoyable, but nothing special. I thought Catherine Tate was fine, her character has been toned down somewhat, which is nice, apart from one rather lame conversation about mating I could have done without. This episode did suffer from the lame "We'll beat them by shouting technobabble" as the doctor pressed random buttons on an electronic thingie, deus ex machina indeed.....


Friday, April 04, 2008

online gaming

I quite like online gaming, but often not online co-operating. Certain video games, and WoW is the most obvious example of this, involve co-operation between you and other people online. The thing is, I dislike the majority of other people online, and I dislike having to pause my gaming so I can wait for everyone else to be organised. It's not like I'm waiting for friends to all get together- these are strangers who have formed into a brief alliance for a common goal. Now sometimes you might have fun doing this, might even chat to these people, but more often than not you'll get the job done and then get out. So meh. I have to admit to being rather antisocial online instead, choosing games where the main interaction with other players is when you make their head explode in lots of shining colours.

This perhaps misses the point of online gaming, but oh well. I will join up with my friends and co-operate, but thats a completely different kettle of fish to be honest, and doesn't happen that much due to everyone having to get online at the same time, and also for my stupid, supposedly 8mb connection, to provide even an eighth of what it claims....


Thursday, April 03, 2008

Buffy the Vampire Slayer

I have been rewatching Buffy the Vampire Slayer with Alice, who has never seen most of the episodes before. I rate BtVS very highly, even though a few people I have encountered dismiss it out of hand. There are certain reasons to put people off- some people will be turned off by the fantastic elements of the show- after all it is full of vampires, demons, a gigantic preying mantis and coyotes that possess people at some points... Along with this one could also dismissively class it as a teen drama, and indeed it does have these elements, particularly in the second and third seasons, where Buffy and Angel's relationship takes centre stage most of the time.

The thing is, it has so much more to offer. Yes, it has teen drama elements, but it matures as it continues for some amazing moments, both euphoric and tragic, for the latter see the episode "The Body" in the fifth season for a truly amazing episode.

Buffy has it's ups and downs, but through it all it is extremely witty and enjoyable, managing to combine drama comedy and action reasonably seamlessly, and even musicals in the wonderful "One more with Feeling" in the sixth season. It has it's share out of outstanding episodes- the two I've just mentioned, Hush and pretty much every season finale are pretty astonishing.

It's difficult to pin down a favourite season. The first season is easily the weakest, having some extremely shaky concepts for episodes, and really it was just finding it's feet. Each season afterwards, however, has something going for it. To my mind the third and fourth seasons are probably the strongest, having some excellent elements. Some people dislike the fourth season, but I suspect that was simply because the formula was radically changed- characters went to college, some left forever, and new characters were introduced, and the themes began to get more adult. Season 3 introducted Faith and the Mayor, both amazing characters, Faith portraying a scarred human being and a possible reflection for Buffy, and the Mayor was just a wonderful villain.

The later seasons, particularly 6 and 7, are the hardest to like. 6 is obsessed with pushing the characters into horrible places, so that any happiness anyone finds is cruelly taken away throughout. Yet despite and also because of this, it provides incredible moments of drama, and has some fantastic episodes along the way.

Season 7 suffers in a different way. Unlike the previous seasons of Buffy, where the main villain for the series would reccur occasionally, but allow time for the characters to explore subplots, this was all about the main plot, and apart from the occasional one off, season 7 is all about the main opponent, The First. Still, it deals with this well and excitingly, and manages to leave a fairly good conclusion for all the characters.

There were more stories to tell, it seems, but not on television, so now season 8 has been moved into comic form. It seems good, although it can't replace the series, and I find myself frustrated by how little content there is to each comic, I go through them far too quickly.....

I don't really have a point here, other than to stress that BtVS is an amazing series, and I miss it a bit....

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Wednesday, April 02, 2008


I had trouble spelling balloons for this post, which shows that.. well I don't know exactly what it shows.

I have never been able to tie balloons very well. In fact I have a problem with knots in general, but with balloons it matters more as not only does time and pressure mean that you have to get that balloon done before you lose your grip and it goes flying across the room, making an amusing phffft noise.

As a result the balloons I tie at best look deformed at their base, and at worse lose air rather rapidly, until they are nothing but shriveled condoms of material, unfit for their purpose as amusing decoration and fun games of catch which even the person with the most pathetic co-ordination can catch.

Next up on the sliding scale of balloons are helium balloons, which have the advantage of floating, and, of course, being full of air that you can use to make amusingly squeaky voices with, for the entertainment of all. The large versions can even carry you up into the sky, as in Wizard of Oz. It occurs to me that I can't work out why the wizard couln't come back for dorothy. Or, for that matter, why the good witch didn't just tell Dorothy to click her hells at the BEGINNING of her journey. One begins to wonder if Dorothy was just a pawn in the witches manipulation, managing to get rid of both wicked witches and the wizard, leaving her mostly unopposed as supreme overbeing of Oz.

Or perhaps I'm just over thinking it....

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Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Yay, xbox 360!

It has arrived in all it's large and bulky glory, and is working fine, after a few hitches where nothing was displayed on my television. I also made the discovery that my television can show things in 60hz format, which I did not know, seeing as it is hardly new... still, a good discovery, as otherwise I wouldn't have been able to play on two of the games!

I have made one rather unwelcome discovery, however. The X-box 360 does not come with wireless capacity installed. This is extremely lame for a next gen console, especially when the wii and ps3 have both managed it. It might be my wireless usb thing for the pc might work in it, but I doubt it. I also don't know where the damn thing has got to.... If I want to buy an X-box adaptor, I have to spend SIXTY POUNDS. A little bit of a rip off, I feel, and a rather sly move by microsoft. Added to this is the fact that you don't seem to be able to buy the sodding things anywhere.

I could of course attempt to connect the thing directly, but the only thing in reach of my xbox's cable is my laptop, and I have no idea if it is possible to make the internet go through this. Anyone know?

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