Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Gamer's Plane Play By Post site 3 year giveaway!

To celebrate Gamers' Plane turning 3, they are giving away some stuff! Among the prizes being given away:

- 1 Star Wars Armada core kit
- 1 Monte Cook's Numenera: Into the Deep
- 5 Tunnels & Trolls "Grimtina's Guard" Adventure, signed by Ken St. Andre
2 bags of 150 dice courtesy of Easy Roller Dice Co.
2 sets of beautiful gunmetal dice courtesy of Easy Roller Dice Co.
- 3 15-track BattleBards albums
- $20 voucher to Modiphius Entertainment
- PDFs of Rich Howard's DnD 5e Alchemist Class

As each winner is chosen, you'll get to pick what prize you want, in order. One prize per person. They can cover shipping within the US, but shipping overseas may need some help to cover.

Entry post is here

BattleBards is a great group making fantastic audio, from clips to longer tunes, to help bring your tabletop games to life. Be sure to visit their Twitter and Facebook.

Easy Roller Dice Co
Simply put, Easy Roller Dice Co makes amazing, affordable dice. Their recent gunmetal dice sets are easily my current favorites. Be sure to visit their Twitter and Facebook.

Modiphius Entertainment
Modiphius Entertainment is a maker of great RPG games, including Conan, Achtung! Cthulhu, the now in beta Star Trek Adventures, and more!

Rich Howard
Good friend Rich Howard is just a brilliant man, trying to make his way as an RPG developer. Working on a variety of projects, his recent Alchemist class for DnD 5e would be fun for any player (or a great NPC for any GM)! Go follow him on Twitter, you won't regret it. He's part of a brilliant podcast, the Whelmed Podcast.

Active Gamers' Plane members!
If you signed up for Gamers' Plane before December 1, 2016 and made at least one post between January 1, 2016 and December 1, 2016, make a post on this thread, and they'll pick five of you to choose what prizes you want first.

Thursday, 24 November 2016

Using Gaming to Write - Guest Post by B.J Keeton

As a child, my personality was pretty much made up of two things: gaming and writing. Some of my earliest memories involve either sitting in front of a TV with an Atari 2600 joystick in my hand or scribbling down squiggly lines in a notebook and telling my parents they were Spider-man stories.

So it really should be no surprise that as I have become a somewhat functional adult, my core personality was already set. I am a gamer, and a writer. Lucky for me, the two most prominent interests go together pretty well.

Back in 2010, I got the idea to write a novel. I mean, I’d had the idea before, but in 2010, I decided to sit down and actually do it. And, I thought to myself just like every other gamer/writer, wouldn’t it just be awesome if this book were--wait for it--like a video game adventure?

This is where y’all collectively sigh and groan at how much of a cliche I was.

However, I think I handled the idea differently than a lot of people would have (or do). Instead of writing a novel about a Dungeons & Dragons campaign my friends and I played that was full of in-jokes and situations that were only funny if you knew the context and people involved, I wanted to write a novel using the concepts and technologies that made up modern MMORPGs.

I wanted to weave things that players were familiar with into the narrative: the tank/healer/DPS trinity and instances, in particular. I started Birthright with the idea that these gameplay mechanics were a natural part of the world, that there were rules and physics that governed instances, and that when going out on a mission, the trinity was the best way to keep everyone safe.

And the thing is...neither of those elements is interesting on their own. What could I do to make readers care about them? As an English teacher, I knew just the thing--make the book about the people, not the ideas.
Unfortunately, I failed at that. At least in the first few drafts. My beta readers beat me up. They railed on how static my characters were. How stereotypical the tanks were. How whiny the healers were. How the DPS were erratic. I took it to an extreme and just made classes instead of characters.

I did exactly what I was trying to avoid, only instead of characters only I liked, I did it with characters no one liked.

As I revised, I went back to the games that inspired me to write the novel in the first place. I thought about why I played MMOs to begin with. I thought about what made me keep playing them. And not once was it because the classes were just too cool to pass up.

No, the reason I played MMOs was because I loved the people. The people are what make gaming worthwhile. It’s the reason that playing Mario Kart with your friends is more fun than blue-shelling a CPU Bowser.

When I thought about it from that perspective, the rest of the novel fell into place.

The tank was no longer the tank. He was Chuckie Tidwell, and he wasn’t just a meatshield anymore. He had a full personality, faults, and insecurities. And he was going to have an arc that was going to be fleshed out by the end of the series (it’s a trilogy, after all, so I couldn’t have it all be perfect in Birthright, tee hee).

The healer, Saryn, became a person who had a backstory and motivations and feelings. And so did the rest of the team. And when that happened, not only did I have characters who acted and felt like real people, I had characters who developed relationships with each other like real people.

You know, the same way that people do in MMO guilds and Discord channels and Twitter chats. These people who were thrown together in the in-universe equivalent of a dungeon-finder (an automated queueing system that puts groups together for you), and they were forced to become a cohesive unit that communicated and reached their goals by working together.

It was a concept that I had seen specifically touched on in books before--I mean, of course every fantasy novel has a party of rag-tag adventurers--but I hadn’t seen one that borrowed heavily from video games in the sense that the characters were intended to be meta (to the readers who understood the culture).

Every member of the team has archetypes they fill for their role in the story, but their personalities rely on the archetypes of the people I’ve interacted with online in the past. For instance, the kind of people who tend to play tanks may share personality traits that draw them toward that particular role, and the same for support, healers, and damage-dealing characters.

Over the course of the series, the characters grow and change, moving farther away from their original starting points. They gain new abilities and talents (see what I did there?), and they become closer and closer with one another, while still working to fulfill the goals that originally brought them together.

I stuck with this idea the entire way through the trilogy because that sole concept of growing and changing with and because of the people around me is the primary reason I play online games. I don’t do a lot of “matchmaking” games like Call of Duty or Battlefield because I prefer the long-term community and friendships that come from interacting with the people behind the keyboard far more than I do interacting with the pixels on my TV or monitor.

If you’re a gamer who loves people as much as I do (and even if you’re not!), I think you would really like The Technomage Archive. I can’t realistically say it’s the best sci-fi trilogy out there, but my totally biased opinion is that it’s worth your time to check out.

And hey, you might even make some new friends while you’re at it. I know I felt like they were mine.

B.J. Keeton is not only a science fiction author, he also co-hosts the Geek to Geek Podcast and hosts the Geek Fitness Health Hacks podcast. He loves talking to people on the internet, so feel free to give him a yell at @professorbeej on Twitter.

The first book in the series, Birthright, is currently available for free on Kindle
Amazon US

Amazon UK
The Techomage Archive is now available on Kindle as a box set
Amazon US 

Amazon UK

Tuesday, 22 November 2016

IntPiPoMo 2016 Post 2 LOTRO Screenshots 2-6

I've been a bit too busy to post screenshots as I promised, so here's so shots from my LOTRO

Bizarre moment when squirrels overrun Minas Tirith

Some lovely shots from Ithilien

My new horse, Golden Summer Steed, from a lockbox!

Exciting new book series starts today - Veil Knights (Book One)- The Circle Gathers

Not strictly horror or gaming, but I know some of my readers will like this news...

Arthurian Myth Meets Urban Fantasy

Twelve New York Times, USA Today, and Amazon bestselling authors – including Lilith Saintcrow, CJ Lyons, Joseph Nassise, Steven Savile, and Annie Bellet – have come together to create a modern reimagining of the legend of King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table sure to please fans of urban fantasy and Arthurian legends alike!

Launching in November 2016 (TODAY!), the Veil Knights urban fantasy series will be published under the pseudonym Rowan Casey and will feature a new volume detailing the exploits of one of the knights every month through summer 2017, when season one of the series comes to its stunning conclusion.

With more than ten million copies of their books in print around the world, the authors bringing this series to you include Lilith Saintcrow, CJ Lyons, Joseph Nassise, Steven Savile, Annie Bellet, Jon F. Merz, Pippa DaCosta, Robert Greenberger, William Meikle, Steve Lockley, Hank Schwaeble, and Nathan Meyer. Cover art by Lou Harper.

The Circle Gathers by Rowan Casey is released today on Kindle for a short time at the special price of...

US Amazon  99c

Thursday, 10 November 2016

IntPiPoMo 2016 Picture 1

Ok, so I'm a little late this year, but I caught wind that the International Picture Posting Month was happening in 2016, a challenge to bloggers to post 50 screenshots, pictures, images or whatever during the month of November, so now I'm up for it.

Today, a moment of pride. I have been playing Pokemon Go with my daughter since launch. It's the highlight of our journey to school. Our local church is a Poke Gym and has been at level ten for ages, so no hope of defeating it. Well today I managed to catch it after a reset and it was on level 2.

I laid down some smack down and took control, at less for ten minutes anyway. Here is the screenshot of that proud moment.

Tuesday, 8 November 2016

Fundraising for Harlington Hospice!

My 5 year old daughter will be raising money at her school for our local Harlington Hospice. She'll be running as many laps around the playground as she can - the guide is 5 but last year the guide was 1 and she did 7!

If you'd like to help her raise a few sheckels, you can donate through Paypal directly to me bfsreviews@gmail.com 

Let me know here if you donated, amounts anonymous. Every little helps! 


Twisted Volume One

If you're a fan of contemporary horror, you might be interested to hear about a new anthology entitled Twisted. The book boasts 50 modern horror stories from new writers in the genre. This has been created by Create50 "an initiative and creative process that platforms the work of emerging screenwriters, filmmakers, short story writers and allied artists."

"Reading it is like attending a late night secret banquet where you know each course will serve up something unexpected, forbidden and unforgettably chilling"

The publishers are currently accepting admissions to the Twisted 50 volume 2 and other Create 50 projects. Visit www.create50.com for more information.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

The return of the original RPG. Guest Post - Christian Ahlin

This guest post comes from Christian Ahlin, creator of the forthcoming pen and paper RPG, Triniton...

The return of the original RPG - why RPG's grew big in the 80's and why it inevitably will again

Let's imagine a time. A time without massive gaming consoles with thousands of streamed games, without social media and their Farm crush clash of GO. A time when children were asked to be home for supper, when VHS had just launched and when "game and watch" meant a pocket-sized game with the current time on it (if you had painstakingly put in the correct time and kept the batteries charged, that is).

This was a time when Dungeons & Dragons spread like wildfire. It wasn't a book. It wasn't a war-game. It was the magical baby of heroic fantasy adventures that a group of kids could take into their basement with some dice, pen and papers and journey as far as their imagination would take them.

Storytelling has been a central part of humanity ever since speech evolved around the cave campfire. There is this intrinsic value of conveying information that one can absorb and better themselves without having the actual experience. But pandora's box opened when the first cave dweller realized you could go beyond actual experience and tell a story that hadn't happened.

Fast forward back into the cellar. With rising tension from the cold war, having your hero venturing out and defeating the evil, being in control from the safety of your sofa was appealing, to say the least.

But the cold war ended. Pacman evolved into Mario kart and roleplaying by pen and paper gave way to Final Fantasy, MUDs, Ultima Online and Everquest.

Although a shrinking niche, the core promise of storytelling in roleplaying games still appealed, in contrast, the boxed experiences computer games offered and the hobby continued on, albeit just a shadow of itself.

Today, 20 years later, we have reached the top of the digital mountain and are finally taking a fresh breath of clarity. 
Reflecting upon that 
  • "social" media has 90% of the posted content unread, 
  • that the deteriorating mental health of our young strike twice as many since '89 
  • and "undefined stomach issues", especially young girls, has become so commonplace that a non diagnosis has become legitimized ("Irritable Bowel Syndrome" means "We don't have a frigging clue, but you are hurting for real").
And all this in a time when the whole world is getting safer, more educated, healthier and richer (if you look at the data and not the news).

The macro trends I see is 
  • more communication, albeit digital.
  • more sending than listening
  • increased polarization of issues and views
  • the total absence of boredom reduces reflection and agency of one's own happiness
  • less quality in the human interactions that takes place due to
  1. many focusing on their phones and other conversations than the one they have at hand
  2. the paradox of choice, making many believe you can "just get another friend", not committing to long term relationships
  3. the total and absolute personal catering (by businesses) of everything, raises expectations and denormalizes situations that aren't "perfect".
  4. the private media mostly enforcing the above values, rather than questioning them. Since their finances are bound to views and people prefer input that agrees with their current state, any questioning content weeds itself away.

And yes, by now you've probably guessed it, the solution to all these issues, improbable as it may sound... is role playing games.

Boiled down to the core, role playing games involve
  • getting together
  • listening
  • being listened to
  • creating an experience together
  • facing difficulty and overcoming it, together
Many are searching for "fun", but it's the feeling you get when experiencing those things listed above.

And although the new technology can be used in a positive way with
  • video chats, that enables meeting people you would otherwise never have a chance to
  • online forums, that helps you find real groups playing.
  • VR, that will enable shared experiences within a couple of years.
But my take on all this, is that to change the world, you must start at home, with your family and with your own/soon to be friends.
And the biggest lie is not having time, it's always a matter of priority, and now you know what's at stake.

So although I just created my first game, I took all this knowledge, mixed it up with the best stories I could muster and boiled it into a game that's aimed to be
  • Filled with guides. How to find players, How to play, How to lead/GM. So everybody should be able to join!
  • Simple rules included (but also compatible with FATE or DnD). Bonuses for cooperating. To further enable as many as possible to play.
  • "YouTube-generation-friendly" Tons(!) of artwork, paced encounters. Magazine feel. To meet the increased expectations of today.
  • Moral dilemmas, (ie. who should a fireman save first from a burning building?). To spur reflection and discussion.
  • Family friendly: No sex, drugs, swearing or depictions of violence. Not explicitly forbidden during play, but neither explicitly mentioned in text or rules. Since the children are our future, let's give them a place at the table.

It took me two and a half years to get this right, and I hope my daughters will be part of the new generation that carries the healthy values and behaviours into the technological future and makes it not only a better world, but one with happy, prospering people in it.

If you want to support me, head over to www.triniton.se and get your copy, but the important thing is:

Let's play some roleplaying games!

Some sources:
(4.1) Cutting edge research in Sweden points out stress as a cause and tried stress relieving exercises using CBT with massive positive effects.

Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Angels, Psychos, and Little Girls With Bombs - Guest Post Author Ian Keeling

I thought I'd write about more video games.

When I was first offered this opportunity to guest-blog (thanks guys!) and write how games influenced my own writing, I figured I'd tell stories about how my first foray into world-building was in my cramped basement trying to recreate the map from Ultima IV with a pencil and graph paper. And yes, I just used the words Ultima IV, pencil, and graph paper in a single sentence. I'm a little old.

Now sure, that influence has extended throughout my extended life, so much so that my new novel, The Skids, (BLATANT PLUG: COMING OCTOBER 2016! I HAVE NO SHAME!) borrows so heavily from Tron that by halfway through the book you'll expect to see Recognizers coming around every corner. And sure, Tron's a movie, but let's face it: it's a video game.

Yep, I thought I'd be writing about Ultima, or Tron, or Final Fantasy, or Doom, Tomb Raider, Fallout, Burnout, KOTOR, Mass Effect, Fallout again, Tomb Raider again…look, it's a long list. And while I have stolen from—I mean, been influenced by—all of those games and many more, just about all the things I wanted to write about, including the world-building mentioned above, could be summed up in one line of dialogue:

"I just bought a pony made of diamonds. Cause, you'know, I'm rich. I'm thinking of calling him butt-stallion."

So instead of talking about Oblivion or Super Mario Kart or Vagrant Story—seriously, long is the list—I've come to celebrate one simple game: Borderlands 2.

I have a confession: I never finish video games. I finished Final Fantasy VII…I think. I finished the first Knights of the Old Republic. Recently, because it was short and the story was great, I finished the relaunch of Tomb Raider. That's it. Three games in a gaming life long enough have included graph paper.

Plus one more.

Because I finished Borderlands 2. Then I played it again with a different character. Then I played it half-way with all of the characters (I could probably walk to Sanctuary blindfolded). Then back to my fav, Gaige, with whom I played all the DLCs. Then True Vault Hunter mode. Then Ultimate Vault Hunter. Then…look, my very extended point is I played the bullymog out of that game.

All the things I love about BL2, things that I try to bring into my own writing, can be seen in that line of dialogue above, uttered early in the game by the villain, Handsome Jack. Although technically it’s an amalgamation of two lines of dialogue, but hey, I cheated. Here’s to console commands!

First and foremost: the line is just funny. The first time I heard it, I laughed out loud and thought: yeah, I think I'm going to like this. Sometimes the genres I tend to write in the most—science fiction and fantasy—can be a bit…uptight about comedy. Or even humour in general. Thank god for horror.

I honestly believe you can’t have great comedy without drama or great drama without comedy. When I watch Zach Galifianakis, I laugh because his pain is real. On the flipside, I once bailed on watching the TV show 24 because I couldn’t believe not one character cracked: “Man, this day is the worst, I say we go for tacos."

Hamlet is funny, people. Actually, Hamlet is hilarious. And that, to me, is great writing. You can be laughing one sentence and crying the next. Borderlands 2 nails that.
I laughed constantly throughout BL2, but even as Jack would zing me from space—more about that later—he'd turn around and commit some horrible atrocity. If you look past the laughter, there are moments when Borderlands gets crazy dark.

My favourite character, by far, is Tiny Tina. I don't think I'm alone in that among people who've played. But while Tina made me giggle almost the entire time I spent with her, if you peel back the façade and actually take a good hard look at her—where she is, how she was orphaned, what her motivations are—then her story is unbelievably sad. And the end of the DLC in which she makes all the other main characters relive the game as a Dungeons & Dragons session was so beautiful I cried. And not a little. Big, gob-smacking tears.

God bless you, Tiny Tina.

The other thing I like about Handsome Jack’s taunts is they’re all rock-solid dialogue. I love good dialogue and take pride in trying to write it myself. From Jack’s smarmy yet at times cold-as-crap drawl to Mr. Torgue’s over the top bluster, BL2 has great dialogue everywhere. By the way—Mr. Torgue? Imagine the former wrestling great Randy the Macho Man Savage souped up out of his gourd as a politically-correct gun runner. "NOTHING IS MORE BADASS THAN TREATING A WOMAN WITH RESPECT!!!!!!!"

Yeah, sign me up.

The voices flow out of the broad characters—Clap-Trap’s clap-trap prattle, Moxi’s sexy twang, Patricia Tannis’ sociopathic paranoia—but more importantly, the dialogue is just as strong in its down-to-earth characters that drive the story: Roland, Lilith, and Angel. BL2 is a wild, crazy world, but the dialogue feels real, and so I believe in this world.

And that world is wild and crazy, which brings me to the final thing I love about Jack’s taunt, BL2, and heck, video games in general: If it’s fun, screw logic, let’s do it. The genre of science fiction, particularly SF novels, can get a little obsessive about the laws of physics sometimes. Most times. Okay, almost always a lot. Now I get it, gravity works, nothing can move faster than the speed of light, you can’t curve a bullet, etc. But, you know what? I’m not smart enough to write 2001 or any more appropriately modern reference, and curving a bullet is an awesome idea. So is carrying around three thousand pounds of guns, jumping fifty feet, jumping even higher if you use a grenade to jump (WHAT?!?), suspending people in mid-air, summoning a robot from the ether, and randomly finding loot in boxes and chests that are, you know, just spread all around the world. And yes, I know other games created many of these things—I think Quake did the grenade trick first—but I love how BL2 incorporates all these absurd things and more.

Including having the antagonist taunt you from space on his own little personal—what is that, Skype? Now the idea of the antagonist taunting the hero has appeared in multiple mediums and certainly gets used in gaming a lot—the cake is a lie—but when you think about it, WTF? It doesn’t matter where my character is; Handsome Jack has exactly the right thing to say at exactly the right moment. But if he knows where I am all the time, why doesn’t he just blow me up from space: that would make sense, right? For that matter, how does he even do it? His taunts are clean and clear every time. Who’s his wireless provider? I can’t even get a clear signal from my router half the time and I live in a bachelor apartment the size of a pony. There are so many things about that idea that don’t make sense if you think about it too much.

But who cares? It’s awesome when the villain does it. I liked it so much that I put it in The Skids (COMING SOON, #NOSHAME!!!) Because even if there is a small part of me that wonders if it makes sense, what we get in return is great. We get opportunities for humour, character development, and most importantly, we create tension, an awareness that the threat is always, always, always there. And that’s good fun. It’s good writing, and it’s why I love Borderlands 2.

Plus, you know, butt-stallions.

Ian Keeling is an author, actor and owner of a half-decent beard. His day job is teaching improv and sketch at The Second City, in Toronto, Canada, which is, you know, pretty cool.

 His first novel, The Skids, will be published in October 2016 by ChiZine books, and is a full-throttle cross between the video game Burnout, the Hunger Games, and the Matrix. Which, hopefully, is also pretty cool.

You can follow me on Twitter @KeelingIan, or my website (under construction, be gentle ) www.iankeeling.com  Thanks so much for having me!

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

LoTRO and the 2017 license speculation

Recently at Dadi's Lotro Guides, Cordovan, the community manager for Lord of the Ring Online (LOTRO) commented in an interview on the subject of the much speculated end of licence for the game, purported to be 2017.

"Cordovan:  I would like to chime in on the licensing thing too, it is something that comes up on the forums quite a bit.  What we do with LOTRO is not particularly different from other video games that operate under a licensing agreement for intellectual property (ex. super hero games, etc.).  They all have license holders and LOTRO is no different.  Typically these kind of agreements are pieces of business that are not really disclosed to the public.  As part of the corporate business decision making that is involved with the creation [and maintenance -ed.] of a game like LOTRO.  The LOTRO community has historically had some particular sensitivity over the licensing agreement, but the agreement itself has basically always been a routine piece of business from the very start.  So while we can understand that some folks like to talk about it on the forums and as you said; “doom say”, the reality is that it is just a private piece of business that has been routine (lawyers getting together).  Ultimately if there was a major issue with the license you guys would probably find out about it because the game would no longer be operating after a certain point.  This is not a reality show “are they going to get kicked off the island” thing worth speculating month after month, year after year.  It is basically just a routine piece of business and we have no reason to think this won’t be a continuation of that."

Now as much as Turbine may view this as "a routine piece of business" they need to realise that speculation from the community without any input from the company will have a severely negative impact on the business and the game in general, after all, who wants to invest time and money into a game with what could potentially shut down with 12 months. 

I was a die hard fan of LOTRO for seven years, though 6 months ago I started to lose heart. The game became too grindy with less and less content and to add to that, the constant speculation of the game's license ending made me step away and after close to 7 years of constant subscription, I unsubscribed. Now I can't be the only one driven from the game in that way.

So rather than ignoring the speculation, Turbine need to deal with it, openly and honestly and encourage those they have lost to return to this great game and give hope that there is a long term plan for the world they have lovingly created.

Blaugust 2016 Day 22 Blaugust Wrap up

And so that's the end of another Blaugust!

As mentioned at the beginning of the month, this was described as the 'Super Relaxed Edition' and the pressure to get a post out every single day was reduced leading to far less of a feeling of burnout with blogging that I felt last year. Having said that, I feel that pressure of previous years forced me to be more creative, finding topics I wouldn't otherwise cover. This year I managed 22 posts including this one out of a possible 31 so better than I thought I'd be capable of..

This year I approached things a little differently and invited guest bloggers, all authors that either write and game or their writing has connections with gaming. Not only did this take the pressure off me but gave some cracking articles from some far more talented writers than myself, so I'd like to thank Nick, Chris, Forbes, KC and Jason for their contributions. If you haven't seen them yet there's a link to guest posts at the top of the blog or if your lazy, you could also click here..

I hope to continue this collection of articles beyond Blaugust with more authors potentially lined up already so stay tuned and if you are an author and would like to contribute, drop me a line! If you're a reader and not familiar with these authors, buy a book or two. They are all outstanding (and you'll be supporting their gaming habits, always a worthy cause!)

So all in all, Blaugust was as fun as ever and I look forward to participating again next year. Congratulations to all the other bloggers that worked to put out as much content as they were able and I've enjoyed reading more blogs than I normally would too.

Happy Gaming!

This post is part of Blaugust 2016, an initiative to Blog throughout August. For more information visit the Tales of the Aggronaut Blog