Thursday, August 15, 2013

[Survey] 100 Books You May Or May Not Have Read

This survey was linked by Estrella Azul over on the Friday Flash community, so I figured I'd respond.

At the moment I’m reading:
  1. The Shadow Rising (Wheel of Time #4) by Robert Jordan
  2. Tenra Bansho Zero RPG
Apparently the BBC believes most people will have read only 6 of the 100 books listed below, so let's see how close to the mark they are with that number...

Instructions:
  • Bold those books you’ve read in their entirety, italicize the ones you started but didn’t finish or read an excerpt.
  • Link back to this entry if you decide to do a blog post yourself.
  • (or simply) Comment below with your list.
  1. Pride and Prejudice – Jane Austen
  2. The Lord of the Rings – JRR Tolkien
  3. Jane Eyre – Charlotte Bronte
  4. Harry Potter series – JK Rowling
  5. To Kill a Mockingbird – Harper Lee
  6. The Bible
  7. Wuthering Heights – Emily Bronte
  8. Nineteen Eighty Four – George Orwell
  9. His Dark Materials – Philip Pullman
  10. Great Expectations – Charles Dickens
  11. Little Women – Louisa M Alcott
  12. Tess of the D’Urbervilles – Thomas Hardy
  13. Catch 22 – Joseph Heller
  14. Complete Works of Shakespeare
  15. Rebecca – Daphne Du Maurier
  16. The Hobbit – JRR Tolkien
  17. Birdsong – Sebastian Faulk
  18. Catcher in the Rye – JD Salinger
  19. The Time Traveller’s Wife – Audrey Niffenegger
  20. Middlemarch – George Eliot
  21. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
  22. The Great Gatsby – F Scott Fitzgerald
  23. Bleak House – Charles Dickens
  24. War and Peace – Leo Tolstoy
  25. The Hitch Hiker’s Guide to the Galaxy – Douglas Adams
  26. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
  27. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  28. Grapes of Wrath – John Steinbeck
  29. Alice in Wonderland – Lewis Carroll
  30. The Wind in the Willows – Kenneth Grahame
  31. Anna Karenina – Leo Tolstoy
  32. David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
  33. Chronicles of Narnia – CS Lewis
  34. Emma – Jane Austen
  35. Persuasion – Jane Austen
  36. The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe
  37. The Kite Runner – Khaled Hosseini
  38. Captain Corelli’s Mandolin – Louis De Bernieres
  39. Memoirs of a Geisha – Arthur Golden
  40. Winnie the Pooh – AA Milne
  41. Animal Farm – George Orwell
  42. The Da Vinci Code – Dan Brown
  43. One Hundred Years of Solitude – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  44. A Prayer for Owen Meaney – John Irving
  45. The Woman in White – Wilkie Collins
  46. Anne of Green Gables – LM Montgomery
  47. Far From The Madding Crowd – Thomas Hardy
  48. The Handmaid’s Tale – Margaret Atwood
  49. Lord of the Flies – William Golding
  50. Atonement – Ian McEwan
  51. Life of Pi – Yann Martel
  52. Dune – Frank Herbert
  53. Cold Comfort Farm – Stella Gibbons
  54. Sense and Sensibility – Jane Austen
  55. A Suitable Boy – Vikram Seth.
  56. The Shadow of the Wind – Carlos Ruiz Zafon
  57. A Tale Of Two Cities – Charles Dickens
  58. Brave New World – Aldous Huxley
  59. The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time – Mark Haddon
  60. Love In The Time Of Cholera – Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  61. Of Mice and Men – John Steinbeck
  62. Lolita – Vladimir Nabokov
  63. The Secret History – Donna Tartt
  64. The Lovely Bones – Alice Sebold
  65. Count of Monte Cristo – Alexandre Dumas
  66. On The Road – Jack Kerouac
  67. Jude the Obscure – Thomas Hardy
  68. Bridget Jones’s Diary – Helen Fielding
  69. Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie
  70. Moby Dick – Herman Melville
  71. Oliver Twist – Charles Dickens
  72. Dracula – Bram Stoker
  73. The Secret Garden – Frances Hodgson Burnett
  74. Notes From A Small Island – Bill Bryson
  75. Ulysses – James Joyce
  76. The Bell Jar – Sylvia Plath
  77. Swallows and Amazons – Arthur Ransome
  78. Germinal – Emile Zola
  79. Vanity Fair – William Makepeace Thackeray
  80. Possession – AS Byatt.
  81. A Christmas Carol – Charles Dickens
  82. Cloud Atlas – David Mitchell
  83. The Color Purple – Alice Walker
  84. The Remains of the Day – Kazuo Ishiguro
  85. Madame Bovary – Gustave Flaubert
  86. A Fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry
  87. Charlotte’s Web – EB White
  88. The Five People You Meet In Heaven – Mitch Albom
  89. Adventures of Sherlock Holmes – Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
  90. The Faraway Tree Collection – Enid Blyton
  91. Heart of Darkness – Joseph Conrad
  92. The Little Prince – Antoine De Saint-Exupery
  93. The Wasp Factory – Iain Banks
  94. Watership Down – Richard Adams
  95. A Confederacy of Dunces – John Kennedy Toole
  96. A Town Like Alice – Nevil Shute
  97. The Three Musketeers – Alexandre Dumas
  98. Hamlet – William Shakespeare
  99. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory – Roald Dahl
  100. Les Miserables – Victor Hugo
Hmm...okay, looks like I've only read about a tenth of the books on the list. Well, I know some of them are on my reading list, at least.
 
So, what are you reading right now? How many of the above books have you read?

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Characters I Miss Playing: DI Mike Porter (Doctor Who)

Porter was a character I played for a while in a PbP Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space campaign over on RPGnet (run by Craig Oxbrow of The Door In Time). He was one of several companions to an unspecified Nth Doctor played by Richard Coyle. The campaign was cut sadly short, with us only making it to halfway through the third episode before things ground to a halt.

In the (relatively speaking) short time I got to play him, Porter pulled off some really ballsy stunts like wrestling in mid-air with a part-invisible flying monster, luring a T-Rex in a hijacked WW2 jeep, and infiltrating a Nazi camp with a pilfered uniform. He was both crazy and awesome, and great fun to play as. I can only imagine what other stunts he might have pulled if the campaign had gone for longer, or how his rivalry with Pollham crime boss Donnie Graves might have come into play in some later adventure.

If I ever get the chance to play rather than run Doctor Who again, Mike would be one of my top choices of character to play.


DI Mike Porter

Personal Goal: Protect the innocent.


Home Tech Level: 5

Story Points: 12




Attributes
Awareness 4
Coordination 3
Ingenuity 4
Presence 3
Resolve 3
Strength 3

Traits
Adversary (Minor: Donnie Graves, Crime Boss), Argumentative, Brave, Code of Conduct (Minor), Empathic, Friends (Minor: Metropolitan Police), Insatiable Curiosity, Obligation (Minor: Metropolitan Police), Tough, Voice of Authority.

Skills
Athletics 2
Convince 3 (Expertise: Interrogation)
Craft 1
Fighting 3
Knowledge 3
Medicine 1
Science 1
Subterfuge 2
Technology 2
Transport 3

Background: Mike has had a reputation as Pollham CID's very own Mulder ever since investigating the Headhunter, a serial killer who decapitated his victims and kept the heads. As it turned out, the culprit was an alien mercenary who was harvesting human brains to sell on the interstellar black market. Mike caught up to the mercenary and put a stop to the killing spree, but all evidence of alien involvement was vaporized along with the Headhunter and his ship. Since then, Mike's taken an interest in the stranger cases in the Pollham district, earning him much ridicule from his fellow officers. 

Personality: Beneath his jaded exterior, Mike is an idealist at heart. He has a strong sense of right and wrong, and will fight tooth and nail in the name of justice or in search of truth, even if he has to defy the very system he serves in order to do so.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

[Musings on Roleplaying] Roleplaying in a Shared Universe (or Multiverse)?

Last year, I was in an epic multiverse-spanning Marvel Heroic Roleplay campaign run by Doc, which had a flexible 'cast' of characters allowing players to drop in and out as suited them. While that campaign was in progress, I'd had plans to run a one-shot every month, and one of the one-shots I had planned was a Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space campaign, which - in a collaboration with Doc - I had planned to tie-in as a crossover with Doc's multiverse campaign. During the adventure I would introduce elements of my own, which Doc could then integrate into his own campaign, and vice versa. (One of the players used his 'extra-dimensional pockets' to procure a sonic screwdriver, which I would have referenced in my one-shot.) But sadly, there wasn't much interest in one-shots at Saturday GUGS at the time, and the plan fell through. Doc did eventually run a few one-shots of his own which referenced his main campaign, and one other player did say they might carry on one of the plot threads from that campaign in a one-shot of their own, but not much else has developed since the campaign wrapped up.

I've had experience of intra-society metaplots before. The University of Stirling's roleplaying society had a couple of 'shared campaigns', one in the Warhammer Fantasy setting, and one in our own homebrew urban fantasy setting. Again, players could drop in and out of either games as they saw fit, they might have two or three different characters to play depending on their mood or where the game was set, and there might even be two games running within the same setting each night. Events which happened in one game might be referenced or built upon by a GM in another, and sometimes GMs would get together and brainstorm events or plots which might affect the world as a whole. It was one of the things I really like about gaming at Stirling, as it gave more of a sense of community between groups and also helped bring those game worlds to life.

It is, of course, difficult to set up such 'shared universe' games in larger societies like GUGS, where there are so many different gaming groups and each one might be playing in entirely different settings. You could circumvent that by using the Multiverse as a plot device, but that can be overused and get ridiculous very easily.

Still, I feel like there's some potential in the idea of GMs from different groups comparing notes and integrating elements from each others games into their own campaigns if they happen to co-exist in the same setting, like Legend of the Five Rings and World of Darkness. Just needs a bit of communication and organisation. I may experiment further with the idea in future.

I'd be interested to hear other peoples' own thoughts on - or experiences with - shared universe roleplaying, so please leave comments below if you have something to add. :)

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Jenny Everywhere Day 2013 Is Coming Soon!

To all my artistically inclined friends and comrades:

A week from today it will be the 13th of August, and that means it's almost Jenny Everywhere Day! Who's Jenny Everywhere and what's Jenny Everywhere Day all about?

Jenny Everywhere is an open source character created on the Barbalith forum by Steve Wintle and other forum members back in 2001. She exists in all realities at once, and can 'shift' herself and sometimes others between realities, earning her the title 'The Shifter'. She can potentially access the accumulated wisdom of her alternate selves, but generally prefers to rely on her own knowledge and capabilities. Her dimensional powers sometimes have other aspects, like the ability to exchange objects with others by shifting them. Sometimes, she may have other powers of her own, but generally she prefers to get by on her wits, charm, good looks and badassitude.

She's identifiable by her trademark aviator's goggles and scarf, is usually of average height and has a good body image, short dark hair, lots of confidence and charisma, and a ready smile.

Jenny Everywhere Day is an annual event encouraging artists to create their own versions of Jenny, either as a standalone image, a cameo in their own work, or in longer works featuring the Shifter.

I'll be working on a flash fiction starring Jenny, which I hope to have ready for posting on or before the 13th. If anyone else wants to join in the fun, submission details can be found on the Jenny Everywhere Day website. Happy drawing/writing/etc! :D


Note: Longer works involving Jenny should include this paragraph to let others know that the character is open source:
“The character of Jenny Everywhere is available for use by anyone, with only one condition. This paragraph must be included in any publication involving Jenny Everywhere, in order that others may use this property as they wish. All rights reversed.”

Monday, August 5, 2013

[Roleplaying] DWAITAS: Clawdite and Silurian racial packages

So, with the Autumn semester a month and a half away, I've started making plans for my upcoming Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space campaign, hence the recent readthrough and review of The Time Traveller's Companion sourcebook.

So far I have two players already signed up, and both want to play aliens, so I've taken the liberty of writing up a couple of racial packages to fit the alien races they want to play.

Clawdite

An imported race from the Star Wars expanded universe which Heather is keen to play as. I've set the cost for the Shapeshift trait itself somewhere between the Major and Special versions in the book, since Clawdites can emulate different humanoid species but not all other species, and can't replicate specific people as the book's Special version allows. I added a Weakness trait to reflect the strain that shapeshifting puts on Clawdites, which can be invoked whenever it seems dramatically appropriate. I've also given a bonus to Resolve to reflect the mental discipline that their shapeshifting abilities require of them, and a -1 penalty to Presence as Clawdites are normally quiet and asocial types.

Attributes: Presence -1, Resolve +1
Traits: Alien [+2], Shapeshift (Special; can mimic other humanoid species, but requires concentration to hold form) [+3], Alien Appearance (Major) [-2], Weakness (Minor; Shapeshifting causes great physical discomfort) [-1]

Total Package Cost: 2 CP (or, optionally, 2 SP)

Silurian

Luke will be playing as Solomon (aka Saul), a TMNT-inspired sewer-dwelling Silurian swashbuckler, so I've put together a racial template using the guidelines from the Aliens and Creatures sourcebook to help smoothen the character creation process for him.
(It was suggested that Armour be left out, as the player may not keep their Silurian armour, but - after reading the write-up for Silurians and the description of the Armour trait - I decided that the Armour trait was representing the Silurians' tough, scaly exterior rather than representing equipment, which was listed separately.)

Attributes: Awareness +1, Presence +1, Resolve +1, Strength +2

Traits: Alien [+2], Armour (5) [+1], Climbing (Minor) [+1], Environmental (Minor - Extreme Heat) [+1], Special - Tongue Attack [+3], Alien Appearance (Major) [-2], Weakness (Minor - Cold) [-1]

Total Package Cost: 10 (I figure this is a bit steep to pay solely in character points, so I'll allow it to be split; 5 CP/5 SP, or some other such arrangement)

Of course, it's up to them whether they want to use these packages as written, or if they'd prefer to modify them slightly, but they look pretty decent to me.

Friday, August 2, 2013

[RP Review] DWAITAS: The Time Traveller's Companion

After having it for about a month, I finally got around to reading The Time Traveller's Companion for Cubicle 7's Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space roleplaying game from cover to cover. Up until now, I only skimmed through certain chapters, which is a bad habit of mine when it comes to roleplaying books. But now, having read it to completion, I thought I'd give a review of it here on my blog.

I'll get straight to the point, there's a lot in this book that I love and almost nothing that I don't.

First of all, it's great just as a resource of information on the Whoniverse, specifically as regards time travel and the Time Lords. The book gives a concise, yet detailed account of the history and culture of Gallifrey and the Time Lords, with a seperate 'secret history' in the gamemaster's section of the book. This offers potential Time Lord players insight to help them get in the mindset of their character, as well as providing the GM with plenty of material to use in possible adventures. There's also a whole section detailing a variety of temporal phenomenon that have featured in the show's long history.

Second, it's useful for the mechanical options it offers both to players looking to play Time Lords or fly around space and time in their very own TARDIS, and to GMs who feel the need for some mechanical ways of dealing with all the wibbly wobbly timey-wimey crap they want to throw at their players (or that the players might try to throw at them). There's expanded Time Lord character creation and expanded regeneration systems, TARDIS creation rules, rules on how to navigate the space-time vortex, managing different TARDIS systems, what happens mechanically when the players try to change history, temporal backlash tables for when it goes horribly wrong, and so much more.

Third, there's some handy stats for generic Time Lord NPCs as well as more famous renegades like the Master, the Rani and the War Cheif, as well as gadget stats for specific temporal devices, new traits (Percussive Maintenance, which allows you to reroll repair attempts or temporarily fix mechanical issues by giving the offending device a good whack, being a personal favourite of mine) and a couple of new racial packages for those wanting to play an ordinary Gallifreyan or possibly a 'Neo-Time Lord' like River Song or (perhaps) Jenny.

Finally, it's just a great source of ideas for a struggling GM. From the background given for Gallifrey and the way various temporal phenomena work, to suggestions in the GM section on how to set games in different periods of Gallifrey's history, how to deal with regeneration and a generous helping of adventure and campaign seeds scattered throughout the GM section, you're bound to find something in here to inspire your campaign. I certainly did. Also, from a design perspective, fans of the classic series will be happy to find that this book features more images taken from the show's original run.

So, do I have anything bad to say about this book? Well, not really. There are a few typos and mistakes here and there, and I'm a little disappointed that the book only covers the Pratt and Simm incarnations of the Master, as I'd have liked to see Ainley's Master in there too. But I suppose other versions of the Master will be detailed in their respective Doctor's sourcebooks once those get released. I'd also have liked some more detail on designing non-TARDIS TTCs, but I suppose those can be created as gadgets using the core rules anyway. I need to inquire on the DWAITAS forum at some point how some of the temporal devices in this book are costed though, as they seem to be getting the Vortex trait very cheap, considering that the version the Vortex Manipulator in the core rules is built from costs 8 points.

For the most part though, I'm very pleased with my purchase of the Time Traveller's Companion, not just as a roleplaying sourcebook, but as a reference for fans on some of the history of the Whoniverse and the mechanics of time travel within this universe. If you're planning on running a Time and Space style of campaign using DWAITAS, this book is well worth the price tag.

Rating: 5