The Tao of Bill Murray – for gamers

For my birthday last year, I got given a copy of the Tao of Bill Murray by Gavin Edwards. It’s a great book filled with a lot of stories and short anecdotes about people meeting Bill Murray, compiled from lots of different sources, and basically spanning most of his career. It’s a really great read.

The book is broken down into to main sections. The first is a list of ten guiding principles of the Tao of Bill Murray, and the second section is a synopsis of Bill’s film work in chronological order, more focussed on the Bill stories that occurred during filming.


It occurred to me that the ten principles of the Tao (or the Ten Bill Commandments as I like to think of them) offer some great advice to people playing or running games, so I’m going to boil down the principles outlined in there and how I’d apply them to the hobby.


The First Principle: Objects are opportunities

I think this is a pretty easy one to come up with in game terms. Flesh out your stories and games with red herrings, with plot hooks tied to objects, and with cool fun stuff in general. Have a fun magic item hidden in a treasure hoard, even if it’s nothing too special. Now have a contact see the item and recognise it. Add more story. Sideplot sideplot sideplot.

Even if the object only lasts a couple of sessions, if that thing can get brought up by someone telling a cool roleplay story, it’s worth it. “This one time, the party found a magic hat that kept the rain off like an invisible umbrella. Then I’m wearing it in town one day and a passing wizard says…” etc etc.


The Second Principle: Surprise is golden. Randomness is lobster

OK, so maybe this could be tied into that odd item I mentioned just now, or maybe it has the potential to derail a game session, but random fun adds plenty to game sessions.

If we’re not talking about the Half-Orc cleric of the god of love (“Why you run from Grod? Grod just want give you big hug!”), maybe we’re talking about the cursed 1d2 damage dagger that bonds to a host and is now forever the first weapon drawn without fail (with potential for abuse – door stop to slow a chasing mob down at every door, can’t be disarmed, ‘did I mention I have infinite throwing knives now?’).

(And yes, those are both stories from games played at my old gaming society at university.)


The Third Principle: Invite yourself to the party

Get involved! Go to the market and engage with NPCs to make a scene more of an event than ‘I go buy Full Plate in the market’.

Tell the rest of the party how you got the gnarly scar on your face, don’t be afraid to show off that cool combo of combat abilities you worked out, don’t always let the ‘face’ do all the talking (but maybe let them do most of it?).



The Fourth Principle: Make sure everyone else is invited to the party

Join the new player on their errands. Help them out. Join the wizard scouring the marketplace even if your characters don’t get on. Especially if they don’t get on.

If you’re not progressing the main story or a sideplot, help someone else out with their own.

Make the game fun for everyone, as much as possible, as often as possible. Play in every scene that makes sense, but don’t hog the spotlight. Offer pointers after sessions about when you liked how others were playing, and don’t just criticise with ‘I wouldn’t have done that’. If you must, suggest alternatives the player might not have thought about in the moment, that would incorporate well with their play style in the future.


The Fifth Principle: Music makes the people come together

OK, this might be the hardest one to pull off but bear with me.

If you’re playing in a cool Legend of the Five Rings game but feel something is lacking, find some cool music on Youtube or Spotify and suggest it get played in the background whilst you play. If we’re being less literal, maybe organise getting together for sushi before the game, or after, or instead of pizza during play, or at another time altogether. Jump into the culture to make your play experience deeper.


The Sixth Principle: Drop coin on the world

This is a hobby that can be expensive – if you want to keep up to date with all the different books and games and settings anyway.

Thing is, if you really enjoy a particular game, spend your money on it. Don’t just grab the free torrent online.

And don’t forget to do you research. If you play a big brand game and like some of the design, maybe look around at what the designers have done since, or before. If you’re really enjoying your FATE game but want something different, scour the internet for different flavours and rules tweaks, see what else is out there.


The Seventh Principle: Be persistent, be persistent, be persistent

Have goals. Follow them.

Know your character backstory, and know when a bad decision is what will drive the game forward better than a good one. Or when a painful decision will help out. Or when it will have consequences.

Your character might be driven by vengeance until he finds out his enemy is really his dad, and then that the party’s cleric is actually his twin sister that he never knew existed, which is totally going to make that kiss they shared a while back awkward, right?

(Ba-dum, tish, screenwipe.)


The Eighth Principle: Know your pleasures and their parameters

Know when to call it quits on a dud of a game. We’ve all played in them, but you know when you aren’t gelling with the rest of the group or you’re having issues making the pre-written module fun for everyone. So when you know, work it out.

Alternatively, know when you’ve had too much of a good thing. An eight-hour marathon megadungeon is a great idea, but only when you know you can handle it. If you’re all set up and ready to go, but then you have a hard week or one of your players does, you know when that eight-hour session is a good or a bad idea.


The Ninth Principle: Your spirit will follow your body

The above being said, if you think you might benefit from an epic session when you’ve had a hard week, go for it. If you’re physically able but maybe mentally drained, as the saying goes, “a change is as good as a rest”. And what’s more different to a hard day in the office than running around a dungeon throwing fireballs at Beholders?

The book made a point of Bill acting way before he thought about what he was doing, so by all means, act before you think top hard about a decision. If you’re invested in a character, maybe don’t leap to your death, but at least you can jump into these decisions headlong easier.


The Tenth Principle: While the earth spins, make yourself useful

Know when to show up to play, know who’s bringing snacks, know who can do what in-game and out to make the whole thing more fun.

Help prevent GM burnout. If you can help stop it happening, do. If you can offer to take over to prevent it or to switch up and run a game in place to help avoid the onset, do. Be the person that volunteers to help do these things, or know that if its not your strength to point it out to the group to find an alternative.

Be the best gamer you can be.


Razir – a continuation

(This piece is part of a work in progress, a continuation of a piece I wrote in 2014, where I spent 20 minutes writing what I had brewed in my head so far.

I’ve since wanted to go back and rewrite that piece, make it closer to how I want it to be. I probably will at some point, and make this into something more fully formed, but I wanted to see what ideas had come together so far.)


Razir ran on, tired, sweat on his back drenching his shirt.

He hadn’t slept in two days, having woken screaming. The owner and several guests at the inn had tried unsuccessfully to calm him down. He couldn’t forget the sight of the old, burned warrior lying on the beach, telling him to protect the Queen as he quickly dissolved to dust and disappeared into the sand.

It was all he could think about.

That, and the feeling of the oar handle he had held pressed in a vice-like grip. The icy coldness of it had almost burned against his skin as he’d awoken from the terrible nightmare.


But Razir knew enough about the world to know what happened could happen again, at any time. One doesn’t simply wake up in the Deadrealms without dying. Not unless the Queen had summoned you there.

And she only called you before her for one reason – you had some particular skill, some knack that she needed, some thing that might keep the armies of the Fiend away from the cliffs, away from the beach, away from any and all souls of the dead who he might bind to bolster his forces.

Razir had no intention of becoming a deathless soldier in her war. He would no swear her oath, would not become one of her agents in life or death.


Razir’s mother had always told him that his father was Oathed. He was never told to which of the Ascended the man was sworn, and no one else seemed to know.

He’d always believed it had been a lie to give his mother comfort when the stranger that was his father had gotten bored and moved on. Many had told the same story to countless other lovers. It was a useful lie.

But one that Razir could never bring himself to retell.


And now, on he ran. Perhaps he could find some place of safety, somewhere that the dream couldn’t pull him back. If it could.

Razir didn’t want to take any chances. He kept running, couldn’t let the tiredness take him. He had to reach the old man and ask him. He would know what had happened.

He would know what to do.


(That’s about all I have so far. Short, but something. I have some more but it’s not the bit that comes next. Or after that. Maybe after that, but probably not. More soon.)




Don’t call it a comeback

Because that would be far too premature!

It’s been about 18 months since I’ve posted anything to this blog, and maybe a year since I feel like I’ve written anything meaningful. But there’s still the constant buzz in my head of ideas, I’m just a bit crap at bothering to write them down anywhere!


So, why the sudden post now? Well, it’s January in a new year, and therefore as good a time as any to try and get back into my writing habit. I managed it a few years ago (at least the start of it), so hopefully I can push myself on a bit further this time. Maybe even fail to stop posting, and carry on going! Who knows?


What’s the plan going forward? Pretty much the same as before. I have a few ideas to riff on, an A-Z list for a few ideas ready to go, but I don’t have them written up and ready just yet (despite good intentions).

The settings I have going haven’t changed so much either.

I still have the world of the Old Crown, although a few bits and pieces have changed around. More on that at some point.

FATEpunk is still active in my head, though less thought out on that.

The mythic space opera D&D setting involving lasers and vikings and spaceships and giants is still bubbling away in my head. I have an adventure path planned, but I’m not happy at all with the start of it. The ending I think is great. If I actually sit down and refine it properly, I’ll post it all up here.


New ideas?

I’ve been playing a lot of Magic the Gathering, so I might throw up some decklists of things I’m tinkering with. Nothing too set in stone with that yet.

I’ve been looking at different writing prompts and trying a few things. Nothing really further than a few paragraphs so far, but hoping that’s just my lack of practice slowing me up, and I’ll get going again soon.

I haven’t kept too up to date with stuff going on in RPG land, new rules and settings and stuff. I might have to sit down and read a bunch of stuff, see if that can help me. I might do a few book reviews. I’ve finally started reading the M20 book, years after I meant to support the Kickstarter for it. So far It’s really good, but I’m still not that far in (under page 50). More to follow.


I might try and throw some stuff together about other books I’ve read, if I remember to. I’ve just finished the Pratchett/Baxter Long Earth series, so maybe a post or two about them.


Anyway, that’s all for now. Hopefully a post or two before February!


Three month gap

So it’s been almost three months since my last blog post. I’m really terrible at keeping these things going sometimes.
I am resolving to kick this back into gear though.

So, what’s going on?

Playing through the Lost Mines of Phandelvar adventure for D&D 5E with my usual group. And I’m PLAYING, not DMing, which is great.
Morn Silverhand, War Cleric of Lludd is great fun so far. We’ve just hit level 4. I think I’d like to play the Rise of Tiamat campaign too, maybe as a Rogue Assassin or Bard of the College of Valour. I liked the look of those two.

I’ve started using Scrivener to write out my setting. I’m surprised I wasn’t using it before. It basically functions in exactly the same way as I write, but all neatly together in one place, rather than me constantly switching windows, which gets tedious!

As such, I’ve started a real re-write, cutting out unnecessary stuff, hauling it in to be more tight. If I really want to expand or waffle, I can do that later. For now, short, concise, to-the-point is my aim.
I’ve almost finished redoing the history section, the gods is a work-in-progress and I have the magic section starting to write away in my head. I’m hoping to get a chunk of it down and squared away by the end of the Easter weekend, given I have four days off from work and the house to myself for two of those.

Once this post is up and online, I’m going to try and start work on a D&D 5E post, focussing on a few ideas for a Norse-inspired setting. Most of it is already done and in the rules for 5E, but I sat down one day a few weeks ago and played around with class renames, race re-skins and stuff like that.

I started trying to convert the Old Crown to 5E too, but I think I’ll wait until I’ve done a bit more work on it and played a bit more of D&D before I tackle that one!

I’ve also got a post-apocalyptic idea going, semi-inspired by listening to the Godsfall 5E podcast on my commute to work, and partly from an old setting I did way back in 3E. I never got very far with it for my players, but I had some ideas that I would probably carry over.

What else? Umm…
I started a new game of Mass Effect on my Xbox. I finished it once, years ago, but then ended up losing that hard drive and restarting again a few years later. I’ve never gotten around to finishing it again. And this time I want to because I want to re-familiarise myself with the game and setting before I start Mass Effect 2, which I finally bought a copy of.
I know, I’m ridiculously behind the times.
It’s made me read up on the game conversions people have done though. There’s a FATE version knocking around that people seem to enjoy, and I found a D6 version too, but I’ve not had a chance to look at the rules for that yet.
I’ve always really liked the setting and wanted to try an RPG session or two in it. Hopefully I’ll get around to it at some point.

And I’ll leave you there and crack on with some other stuff. More soon!


More ideas clamouring for attention

So here’s a little overview of what’s currently bubbling in my head:

A game set in a world where the Roswell Incident was the site of Earth’s first extraterrestrial encounter, not a crash. Ship landed, aliens surveyed and encountered locals, contacted mothership and decided to stay. It is now the 70s or 80s (or now, not really decided). Something like District 13 meets Blaxploitation meets Alien Nation (with some Space Precinct thrown in for fun).

Roman Pathfinder, as mentioned in my last post, nominally called Republic. Still working out the kinks with different races and stuff.

A hard sci-fi game has popped up and is bubbling away, though I don’t know if anything worth talking about will come of it. It’s nothing special, just something I think would be fun.

A game centred around a Barony, or group of Baronies. Something like Game of Thrones, so I may just look at Song of Ice and Fire and hope. It’s mostly just a warcry of ‘For the Baronies!’ at present.

I’ve been thinking a lot recently about the old Cyberpunk game I played a lot of (but haven’t for about a year now). It was a hack together by a friend of the old World of Darkness system, as well as the Cyberpunk 2020 rules. He was calling it everything from Farpunk to just Punk, given his other groups had managed to get lost in space. I think really I want to resolve what was happening when we finished the session: I had been given a secret task, and then during play it became apparent I had to issue a ‘GO!’ order in front of other players. My mission: full-scale attack on a school for potentially psionic children. One of the group’s characters was also on the grounds at the time, and it became a race for the other players to stop the attack, whilst I tried to make sure they never made it.
Did I mention I was a crimelord and everyone else was a cop? Fun times.