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The Secret World: my favourite game I’m not playing

It’s always been that I’ve got far too many games than I can actually play. Most of the time, I’m happy just having them; one day I’ll play them, I will. However, some I really really want to get seriously into. The Secret World is one of these.

I’ve posted about it before. It’s a modern-day based horror investigative mmo from Funcom. It came out using a subscription model but now it’s gone buy2play, you buy it and then can play for free, paying for extra content and downloads with offers and free points for subscribers.

Anyhow, with my love of horror, Lovecraft and the slipstream, getting the game was a bit of a no-brainer.

But am I playing it as much as I’d. No. I’m still fighting zombies in the first zone and experimenting with my character build.  I like the way it’s done in TSM,  you can slot different skills and become healer, dps, tank or a mix according to taste or necessity on what’s called a skill wheel.

It’s frustrating. Not only is there the game content itself, but Funcom seem to be experimenting with different sorts of metagaming. In December there was an alternate reality game ( ARG) that was set in and around the Secret World called the End of Days, focussing on the predicted end of the World on December 21st. If you opted in you could visit strange websites, receive unsettling phones calls and be sent obscure e-mails. Players got together to decipher the meanings of all these on the official forum.

Now Funcom is experimenting with Twitter, the Twitterverse Experiment. Various NPCs have their own twitter feeds which interact with players, sparking new missions and mysteries within the game in partnership with gamers themselves.  It sounds closer to actual roleplaying than any other mmorpg has managed since the likes of Ultima Online and the original Star Wars Galaxies.

It reminds me of an obscure Lovecraftian roleplaying game: De Profundis that I have but haven’t run yet run (do you see a theme here). Here, two or more people communicate purely through letter-writing or other form of communication. You can be yourself, you can be anybody, you can choose your time period. Together, you build up an atmosphere and a story and shape a game world between you all. Interesting.

But anyhow, it doesn’t get me playing TSW. I’m reading the forums, I’m looking at character builds, I’m watching fanmade videos, I’ve thought about which cabals to join. It’s totally my favourite game. When I play it.

My dice collection: another installment

I think we’re way overdue.

A further exploration of my dice collection (I think these posts are the most interesting ones on here)

First some d6 dice. You can see that at the back there is a very big die. And at the front there is a very little one.

Look at the different sizes

Now the next dice are my Japanese dice. They were all bought on my trip to Tokyo.From a Japanese pen and paper roleplaying shop found in the depths of Akihabara.Pen and paper roleplaying is truely international!


And, on a serious note, while we are talking about inclusion and roleplaying, I have a die I am particularly proud of. If you look, you will notice that instead of numbers in the usual script, it has numbers written in sign language. This means that roleplayers who are hard of hearing need no longer be, or feel, excluded. They too can join in and game.

No-one need feel excluded

My dice collection continued at last: Gamescience leads the way

Many, many apologies. In particular to those who may have been holding their breath and so have, by now, passed away since I promised to show you all, as an avid table-top roleplayer, my dice collection back in August.

Anyway, for the survivors and for those joining since then; here at long last, is the first part.

I thought I would start with examples of the creme de la creme of dice technology; my Gamescience dice. These dice are precision tested with razor-sharped edges to reduce biassed rolling. I couldn’t even begin to explain the science behind them, so I shall let that duty fall to Colonel Louis Zocchi himself, their creator and developer.

and Part 2

I have a number of these dice and for accuracy they have never let me down. And they look nice too.

A selection of my Gamescience dice

My Dice collection: Conveyance

I’ve been very busy lately. I’ve joined a gym and I’ve been playing a bit more LOTRO; some alting here and there and trying to level up my crafting. This has meant I have neglected Berath’s Brain Burps a trifle. However, in advance of the highly anticipated exploration of my gaming dice collection, I have found time to photograph my Dice Bags to make a start.

I think Dice Bags (and Boxes) are often neglected when it comes to gaming dice collections. This is unfair. After all if it were not for our bags and boxes, our dice would just keep on falling all over the floor whenever we tried to take them about the place. And then where would we be? Well certainly not gaming beyond the confines of our own homes.

Anyway I have three Dice Bags.

This bag is small and portable. My dice travel in this when I game away. Of course it only fits a small selection of my collection. I choose the dice I am most likely to need, for instance D10s for White Wolf games.

This is my storage bag. If you look closely you can see that it has a small matching flower pinned to the side, covered in gold sequins.

And this bag is for Special. I liked it because I think it looks like Cthulhu.

My portable dice boot

Now you may or may not know that I am a table top roleplayer. Over the years, I have invested much in the purchasing of various role playing paraphernalia to assist me as I game. And one of the most essential has been my Chessex portable dice boot.

Now I think we have all been there. As the box blurb asks are you ‘tired of dice rolling off the table? Tired of games being disrupted by rouge dice causing tabletop mayhem? Tired of trying to find table space for a box lid to roll dice into?’ Well yes, yes and a resounding yes!

I have noted my fellow gamers pass through four stages when they hear of my dice boot:

Stage 1 – incomprehension that such a thing could exist

Stage 2- mockery

Stage 3- when I take out my dice boot and assemble it before them; interest

Stage 4 – when they see my dice boot in action; desire, envy, avarice. They all want to use my dice boot to roll their   dice. They all want a dice boot.

So, you all demand, show us this dice boot. Well Chessex have very thoughtfully produced a video showing the construction of the Chessex dice boot. See below.

Unfortunately this does not show the dice boot at work. However I have found a video that shows the dice boot in operation and from every conceivable angle, to ensure maximum comprehension on the part of those who may find it hard to envisage otherwise. It also has a nice latin american soundtrack.

My Cthuhloid claim to fame

Whilst we’re talking Call of  Cthulhu  (see post below), I now see fit to mention one of my proudest roleplaying moments.  In fact one of my proudest moments period. I am rarely one to boast of my own achievements (few as they are), but if one cannot crow from time to time on one’s own blog, well, well..pah!

So here goes:

You are reading the blog of Berath, the winner of  the Call of  Cthulhu UK National Tournament at Gencon Olympia 2003.


Unfortunately I never got my prize. I left before they were awarded without knowing I’d won. I was in contact with the judge who told me of my prize, for a while. His last e-mail to me informed me that he was sitting looking at my prize, at that moment, as it sat on his mantlepiece. I never heard from him again.

Cthulhu fhtagn!

It’s been a while since my last post. I’ve been busy. First, a lot of thought is still going into scheduling for the new raid. Secondly, it’s my turn to run the game in my Monday tabletop roleplaying group. Three of us run games and we alternate between them. I’m running a Call of Cthulhu (CoC) game set in 1920’s London.

Briefly, CoC is based in the world of H.P. Lovecraft, an American author who wrote mainly in 1920’s-30’s. His works feature horror, alien worlds, cultists and ancient all-powerful Gods, brooding at the edges of reality, poised to destroy humanity; Yog-Soggoth, Shub-Niggurath, Nyarlathotep, how satisfactorily the names slip off the tongue….. Players play ordinary mortals; professors, society girls, journalists, who at the start are blissfully ignorant of the fragility of the world they see around them, but slowly become more horribly aware as they learn of things that ‘mankind is not mean to know’ and come to understand the truth. Often the end game is a ‘choice’ between the refuge of insanity, or death. I love it.

Michael Komarck

I’m using a published scenario, but I often find I need to change things. Most games run like a detective story with events unfolding and clues  leading the players through.  However players invariably do  what you don’t expect or miss the obvious (to you). Published scenarios  can’t cater for this so as the Keeper, you have to build in alternative ways of reaching particular points and prepare to be flexible.

I also like to emphasise the role-playing. My game is set in the 1920’s. So, I’ve got hold of contemporary magazines, brochures and maps for players to look through. They can decide where they might live , things they might buy. I have a Harrods brochure (cover feature; their winter slipper selection) for players to browse through, this also includes listings of shows that are playing and restaurants some of have dancing. A copy of the Vegetarian, which, as well providing an aid for  character development, contains recipes; for cutlets (main ingredient rice), fritters (main ingredient rice) and curry (main ingredient rice), addresses of boarding houses and, most importantly in a CoC campaign, lists of Sanatoriums where player characters might rest a while and attempt to recover some elements of their shattered sanity.

Throughout, I encourage player characters to live as normal people, with ordinary hopes and concerns,  and lives which they want to strive, fight, to maintain. And to make the contrast truly, rightly, terrible, between reality’s façade to which the ignorant prescribe and the darkness and dissolution which the player characters find, in actuality, lies behind.

Happy gaming!

Dragonmeet: old school roleplay

This Saturday was Dragonmeet 2009 in London, an annual day long roleplay convention. I’ve already written a bit about good old-fashioned pen ‘n’ paper roleplaying, how I’m totally into it and my plans for getting my kin involved (oh yes, I haven’t forgotten people…). It was a good day. I was particularly heartened by the number of younger people there, probably from the various London universities and colleges. There’s often talk about how tabletop is dying as more and more people turn to video gaming for their roleplay. This is most likely true enough but the weekend showed that there is some life yet for the dice rollers. It was also nice to see that there was a significant number of women there, particularly amongst the younger age groups. This can only be good; more women = a potential doubling of the pool of tabletop roleplayers from the old days when fewer women played.

Anyhow, I bought games, of course. Just as I like indie pc games, I like indie roleplaying games. Over the last few years there has been a shift towards these smaller games, often highly creative and innovative, exploring different ways of roleplaying. Many involve a consensus between player and GM, both developing the game world and play style together. One horror-based game has the players removing blocks from a jenga tower at crucial moments to create an appropriate feeling of tension. In another I picked up, players bring themed music mix CDs to create a road-journey adventure.

However, I tried a more traditional game with a GM running a scenario; in this case using the Gumshoe system. This is designed to facilitate a faster game by ensuring players are always provided with crucial clues at appropriate moments in order to move the game forward. We were all mutant super-heroes and could choose our own powers. I decided I wanted spontaneous combustion. Maybe a rather one-off super-power? Or maybe not, if you took fire immunity. And, even better, if you took fire control; it eventually occurred to me that I needed some way of stopping being on fire otherwise the rest of the party would have to lug fire extinguishes around with them to put me out. The game went well and the system worked but to my sorrow, I never got the opportunity to combust. Another day perhaps.

Kinship downtime – lets roll them D10s!

My LOTRO kinship seems to be pretty active though since I’ve never been a member of a kinship or guild before, I’ve nothing to compare. We have a very active forum with posts every day on topics both in-game and out of game.  We have  started our own  kinship Wiki and have an in-game roleplayed history.

And then outside of the forum we have our bloggers, and tweeters and meet ups. I love all of this. I like the way the kin spreads out beyond the game and I’d like to see more. Maybe because I genuinely like and am interested in, the people in my kinship.

And now I have an idea!

I started roleplaying playing tabletop games. I still think that this is roleplaying in it’s optimal form; a DM/GM and players  in a room with dice and a scenario. This is why when people get too purist about role-play on our RP server, I don’t really share. Although I have expectations regarding behaviour, roleplay etc, at the same time I feel I’m compromising  the real role-playing experience by being in LOTRO because a computer game could never equal it (though have strengths of a different kind).

Anyhow, one of my favourite tabletop rp games is Call of Cthulhu, based on the 1920s horror stories of H.P. Lovecraft. I am currently running this in my Monday night gaming group and ran a CoC scenario when I met up with my kinmates in Sweden. So, thinks I, why not run a CoC game for my kinmates. On-line. To try and get that tabletop experience. Over Skype ideally since the sound quality seems to be better and it is easier for a number of people to speak at once.

I’ve found some information on my favourite Cthulhu resource web-site

Playing Call of Cthulhu on-line

This also has reportbacks from people ; apparently it works, it’s like being in your own radio play. Tabletop rp has been discussed before in the kinship. Many people used to do it but have given up as real-life has intruded. This would give them a chance to play again, and maybe introduce others to tabletop-style gaming. And it would give the kin something else to do together. I might begin with a one-off pilot, it will need to be timed around Mirkwood too, but if I do go ahead, I’ll feed back here.