The Agency - PDF

I've just unleashed The Agency on an unsuspecting RPGNOW.

A game of 1960s spies, bad sets, nefarious villains and glorious technicolor. It features quick character creation and a great abstract threat system to make GMing really easy.

You can purchase a copy in PDF form for the tiny value of $10.

Nerdinburgh - the convivial convention

Last weekend I went to Edinburgh for the small, but perfectly formed convention, Nerdinburgh. Organised by Per Fisher, the con squeezed a lot of cool gaming, drinking and food into three short days.

The venue was The Old Observatory House, a wonderously decorated victorian pile at the top of one of Edinburgh's hills. Amazing view, great architecture, surprisingly cheap in mid October... It also has some rooms ideal for gaming (big tables) and no so ideal (really weird acoustics). Plus Edinburgh's best off license is very near by!

We managed to cram in four big games and a host of smaller ones. Roleplaying wise, I managed to play Do: Pilgrims of the Flying Temple, Mechaton, Remember Tomorrow and ran The Agency. I also played Cambria and some Bang!

The game of The Agency I ran involved a dangerous group of 1960s science clowns and a weaponised giraffe. Much more gonzo than usual, but the game was hysterically funny and the group really grasped the idea that the game is a homage to 1960s TV, dodgy sets and all! Plus it descended in a pun-fest of epic proportions.

Do was fun, our game was light hearted and vaguely steampunk anime, though the non-roleplayingness of it was difficult for people, I think. We had some lovely imagery though, as our young flying pilgrims tried to help people and avoid getting in trouble. The second of our stories felt a lot more coherent than the first. Definitely a game that needs replaying.

Remember Tomorrow was a gritty cyberpunk tale of a flooded London, a broken family and a data courier with the Chief Inspector's memory. A perfect little system for anything noir.

Mechaton was a game of giant fighty robot lego. What more needs said?

The Agency - Revisited

Over on the Collective Endeavour and Google Plus I've been chatting a bit about a project I never expected to happen, a revised version of The Agency.

It came as quite a surprise to be revisiting the game, it was originally written some time in the early 2000s and was one of the first games I put up on Realms. The simple premise of extending 60s spi-fy series into a more supernaturally slanted world was always pretty grabby for gamers and its one of the freebies I always got most actual play from. People liked it enough to translate it into Italian.

In 2004 it appeared with many other great games in the Nopress Anthology. That was a project I was really proud to be part of (look at the authors list, it's a veritable who's who of Indie games!) When Nopress went out of print, I put the PDF version of that up on the site and considered it done. It had its flaws but I didn't have time or inclination to fix them...

Flash forwards to April 2011 and I'm reading Gregor's excellent 3:16 and it suddenly hits me that the mission structure of that game would fit The Agency like a glove. It would also solve one of the nagging things about the original version of the game - that the adversity is arbitrary in a very traditional Gm-led way.

So I started re-writing and everything seemed to just slot into place. The current text is undergoing some pre-reading and stress testing, but expect to see more about it in the coming weeks. If you fancy playtesting, please do get in touch.

The current version will stay online until the new one is released, at which time I'll be removing it.

UK Games Expo : Anatomy of a convention

This last weekend I attended the 5th UK Games Expo in Birmingham (my local convention!) A couple of thousand people playing board games, card games and RPGs. I was joined by Andrew Kenrick, Iain McAllister and Marku and Eero Tuovinen on a booth full of Indie RPGs.

I've been going since the convention started and each year has been bigger and better. I though it would be worth nailing down exactly why this convention goes from strength to strength, from my perceptions at least, and what it might be able to improve.

The big differing factor of UKGE is that it defies the white, male and thirty-something convention norm. It attracts people of all ages, has a healthy gender mix and attracts a multi-cultural family crowd. This is proper gaming outreach; The organisers put a huge amount of work into attracting new visitors by running tasters at other events and in schools, and timing the event for the end of half term. The importance of this shouldn't be underestimated. They go out and actively get people interested. No other convention I know even comes close to this in terms of bringing in new folks.

A particular aspect I liked of this was the Family Zone, located by the cafe on the 2nd floor and with a host of games set out for families to try. Along with a wonderful large scale, "Catch the Pigeon" game and some game consoles. Once my daughter is old enough, I'll be taking her along to this.

It's also a strong sales convention. The dealer hall allows you to shift product. There are some caveats to that, of course. New product, or more precisely, new product to Expo always sells well. You can do OK with some older product (I paid my booth share in sales, which with my newest product being three years old is pretty good going), but it's not where you'll do best. Crossover products will do well too, the Indie booth shifted a few board/card/rpg hybrids. You can also do a good trade in 2nd hand goods at the Bring & Buy, if like me you have loads of old games you no longer need.

Expo is also notable for its solid organisation and communication. The event is very well run and the organisers area always easily contactable. While not everything is perfect, you can also be sure that if something is sub-optimal it'll be improved next year. This year's much more organised parking was a great example of this feedback loop in action. Another, nice new development was this years playtesting alley, which had a lot of boardgames in the final stages before release. A bit hidden away, but worth a peruse.

Are there problems? Well, from a personal perspective the fact that you get charged entry and then have to pay extra for RPG sessions is an issue. It actively dissuades people from trying unknown or newer RPGs and to err on the old favourites. I can understand why they want people to pay, an RPG table eats a lot of resources for a 4 hour session, which adds expense to a venue. I do wonder if it could be better handled at a cheaper secondary venue nearby (as the board-game/open play is).

The awards are an oddity too. I like the idea of a UK-centric set of game awards, with a broad range of categories. However, I'm not sure how I feel about a set of awards for games that include titles not even released, and so not exposed to much in the way of play.

The size of the venue is also a problem; It's just a little too small for the crowds they get! A nice problem to have! The Clarendon Suites are an odd bunker of a building, with no windows and little in the way of air con, this means with all those people it can feel a bit claustrophobic. Especially in the RPG rooms, where you can have a few games in a confined space...

All in all, Expo continues to be the poster child for a well run and entertaining convention. Here's to many more!

A New a Design in Progress

Over at the Collective Endeavour site, I'm starting to post a few details about my "new" project, Enlightenment & Entropy. It's a setting intense story game, that meshes together influences from what I see as the best of the fantasy city sub-genre. So it's the kind of thing you'll like if you're a fan of Michael Morecock, China Mieville, Mary Gentle or Gene Wolf. It's a game about characters pushed too far by greater powers and conniving factions, thematically it has a lot in common with Film Noir.

This project has actually been ongoing for some time, I had an abortive draft for play test in 2007 that didn't work. I've heavily reworked it since then, and it's really starting to feel like it's own thing now. Anyhow, take a look over at The CE