Saturday, September 17, 2011

Fabled Lands Role-Playing Game (Part 3)

Returning to our heroes Shagar and Jarna, we find them on a mission to slay the ratmen of the sewers of Yellowport. They stand before an abandoned well in West Port, the poor quarter of the city. Apparently, the well is a gateway to the sewers below, but there is no ladder or other means of descent. Shagar ties his rope to a crossbeam and tests it for strength and secureness. It seems sound, so, with him leading the way, they clamber down the rope and into the depths...

[Climbing down into the sewers requires a Thievery roll at Difficulty 9, plus 2 for using rope. Shagar rolls 7 plus 1 for Thievery and 2 for the rope equals 10, which beats the Difficulty of 9. He makes it to the bottom of the well unscathed. Jarna rolls 7, plus 7 for Thievery and 2 for the rope for a total of 16. She clambers down the rope a good deal quicker and more dextrously than her comrade]

'Show off!' says Shagar, on seeing her rapid descent. They find themselves in a square chamber almost knee-deep in indescribable refuse that gives off an appalling stench. There are four exits, though only the northern one looks big enough for them to venture into. Jarna lights her lantern, and also pulls out a parchment and a stick of charcoal. Shagar readies his sword and shield, and they head north, into a maze of passageways, stopping often to map the various corridors that peel off and away into the darkness. There is the steady drip of water from above and the occasional skittering of rats, but little else in the way of noise...

Sometime later they are advancing cautiously down a damp tunnel festooned with cobwebs. Jarna has stashed her map in her belt and carries her wand in her other hand. The cobwebs begin to get thicker and thicker, and they bump into the husk-like corpse of a ratman, shrouded in webs and hanging suspended from the ceiling. 'I don't like this one bit,' mutters Shagar as they both hear the sound of something moving towards them through the webs. 'Get ready!' Suddenly the biggest spider either of them had ever seen skitters towards them, envenomed fans gleaming in the lanternlight!

By Russ Nicholson (from Cities of Gold and Glory)
 [Combat begins! Strike orders are rolled: Shagar 8, Jarna 10, and the Giant Spider 7. Jarna goes first. She has 2 Action Points and uses 1 to Cast Pacify. This has a Difficulty of 11. Jarna rolls 9 plus Magic 7 and 1 for her wand, for a total of 17. The spider immediately stops attacking and remains quiet. Shagar decides to squeeze past it and check its lair. He spends 1 Action Point moving into the spider's lair and another searching through the remains of its victims. The spider does nothing for its turn, and will continue to do nothing for five more turns or unless attacked. The first Combat Round has ended.

Jarna continues watching over the spider while Shagar searches. The Difficulty of the search is set to 10. Shagar rolls 7 plus 4 for his Scouting, and succeeds! He finds a bag with eighty Shards, and a shortsword and shield of excellent manufacture and untarnished by being in the sewers. For the third Combat Round he gathers up the loot, and goes back to Jarna. There is a brief debate about whether they should kill the spider, but in the end they decide to leave this part of the sewers. The Giant Spider, still Pacified, watches them go with glittering eyes...]

From this brief example of play we can see that the Fabled Lands Roleplaying Game is a fast and action-packed experience. Things happen quickly, thanks largely to the simplicity of the core Difficulty test mechanic, as taken from the gamebooks themselves. At the same time, there are plenty of customizable options for character generations, as with Jarna above, who can get immediately involved in the action. I may be biased, but I think it's a great game in its own right, as well as a much-needed addition to the Fabled Lands world!

This finishes this short series of reviews, though I'll likely be returning to talk about the Fabled Lands RPG from time to time, and possibly continuing the further adventures of Shagar and Jarna...

You can purchase the Fabled Lands RPG here, and find out more here.

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Why I Hate Studying

I hate studying and the best ever articulation as to why the whole process of studying is a painful waste of both time and brain cells can be found in the first ever Red Dwarf novel:

[Rimmer] found the process of revising so gruellingly unpleasant, so galling, so noxious, that, like most people faced with tasks they find hateful, he devised more and more elaborate ways of not doing it in a 'doing it' kind of way.

In fact, it was now possible for Rimmer to revise solidly for three months and not learn anything at all.

The first week of study, he would always devote to the construction of a revision timetable. At school Rimmer was always at his happiest colouring in geography maps: under his loving hand, the ice-fields of Europa would be shaded a delicate blue, the subterranean silica deposits of Ganymede would be rendered, centimetre by painstaking centimetre, a bright and powerful yellow, and the regions of frozen methane on Pluto slowly became a luscious, inviting green. Up until the age of thirteen, he was constantly head of the class in geography. After this point, it became necessary to know and understand the subject, and Rimmer's marks plunged to the murky depths of 'F' for fail.

He brought his love of cartography to the making of revision timetables. Weeks of patient effort would be spent planning, designing and creating a revision schedule which, when finished, were minor works of art.

Every hour of every day was subdivided into different study periods, each labelled in his lovely, tiny copperplate hand; then painted over in watercolours, a different colour for each subject, the colours gradually becoming bolder and more urgent shades as the exam time approached. The effect was if a myriad tiny rainbows had splintered and sprinkled across the poster-sized sheet of creamwove card.

The only problem was this: because the timetables often took seven or eight weeks, and sometimes more, to complete, by the time Rimmer had finished them the exam was almost on him. He'd then have to cram three months of astronavigation revision into a single week. Gripped by an almost deranging panic, he'd then decide to sacrifice the first two days of that final week to the making of another timetable. This time for someone who had to pack three months of revision into five days.

Because five days now had to accomodate three months' work, the first thing that had to go was sleep. To prepare for an unrelenting twenty-four hours a day sleep-free schedule, Rimmer would spend the whole of the first remaining day in bed - to be extra, ultra fresh, so he would be able to squeeze three whole months of revision into four short days.

Within an hour of getting up the next morning, he would feel explicably exhausted, and start early on his supply of Go-Double-Plus caffeine tablets. By lunchtime he'd overdose, and have to make the journey down to the ship's medical unit for a sedative to help him calm down. The sedative usually sent him off to sleep, and he'd wake up the following morning with only three days left, and an anxiety that was so crippling he could scarcely move. A month of revision to be crammed into each day.

At this point he would start smoking. A lifelong non-smoker, he'd become a forty-a-day man. He'd spend the whole day pacing up and down his room, smoking three or four cigarettes at a time, stopping occasionally to stare at the titles in his bookcase, not knowing which one to read first, and popping twice the recommended dosage of dog-worming tablets, which he erroneously believed to contain amphetamine.

Realizing he was getting nowhere, he'd try to get rid of his soul-bending tension by treating himself to an evening in one of Red Dwarf's quieter bars. There he would sit, in the plastic oak-beamed 'Happy Astro' pub, nursing a small beer, grimly trying to be light-hearted and totally relaxed. Two small beers and three hours of stomach-knotting relaxation later, he would go back to his bunk and spend half the night awake, praying to a God he didn't believe in for a miracle that couldn't happen.

Two days to go, and ravaged by the combination of anxiety, nicotine, caffeine tablets, alcohol he wasn't used to, dog-worming pills, and overall exhaustion, he would sleep in till mid-afternoon.

After a long scream, he would rationalize that the day was a total write-off, and the rest of the afternoon would be spent shopping for the three best alarm clocks money could buy. This would often take five or six hours, and he would arrive back at his sleeping quarters exhausted, but knowing he was fully prepared for the final day's revision before his exam.

Waking at four-thirty in the morning, after exercising, showering and breakfasting, he would sit down to prepare a final, final revision timetable, which would condense three months of revision into twelve short hours. This done, he would give up and go back to bed. Maybe he didn't know a single thing about astronavigation, but at least he'd be fresh for the exam the next day.

Which is why Rimmer failed exams. (Grant & Naylor, 1989, pp. 63-65)

I don't do anything like this for my own studies but it never fails to amuse. Happy revising!


Grant, R., & Naylor, D. (1989). Red Dwarf: Infinity welcomes careful drivers. London: Penguin.


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Lost in Bangkok...

Apologies for the complete lack of updates but I've been totally snowed under flooded (via the Bangkok monsoon), with real-life tedium like work and study, and much more fun stuff like trying to get my entry in for Wayne Densley's 2011 Windhammer Prize for Short Gamebook Fiction. 

There's eight entries this year in Wayne's competition, which is the most in its four year history, and they all look very interesting! I plan on talking a bit more about them later, particularly once the entries are published online, but for now it's good to see some familiar faces among the entrants, such as 2010 Windhammer Prize Winner Stuart Lloyd, two-time Merit Award winner (and author of GA4 Revenant Rising) Kieran Coghlan, Merit Award winner and Fighting Fan-tales writer Zachary Carango, and regular Fighting Fantasy Project guestbook contributor Dark. A strong field indeed!

Two other things I need to get done ASAP and hopefully in the next week or two, are:
Until then!