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Tuesday, September 16, 2014

A Players Perspective

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Hola!

I think this is a first for 'Far Beyond My Capacity'. It's nice to come first. Yes, I'm a guest blogger! It's been an eternity since I blogged myself over at 'Le'Bard Connection' but I'm here to give it a go. It's worth it. Saving the World needs a special celebration right?

Good table top roleplaying stays with you. It can build an adventure of the imagination so vivid that the memories last a life time. The last time my Brother ran a Call of Cthulhu campaign was around 20 years ago. Cthulhu on the Orient Express. I can still remember my characters on their fearless journey. Shade Otakuwe, Circus Performer, and Constantine, a hybrid of a whip wielding Indiana Jones and the cavalier Liverpudlian (yes, I know! HellBlazer wasn’t as well known back then!). So around two years ago when my Bro contacted our old school years table top group and asked who wanted to try an experiment to see if Fantasy Grounds would be a good medium to get a remote table top campaign going again, we all jumped at the chance.

This time round, there was an addition to our group - Matt, a great guy who we had met MMO’ing on EverQuest2 and had remained friends with ever since. Aside from that it was all the OldSkool. Simmsy, Davey Cee, James and of course, myself. All under the careful tutorage of our Games Master, my older brother Neil. As long as Fantasy Grounds worked OK, we kind of all knew what to expect. Neil is an extremely imaginative and competent GM. Which to us meant that we would be led through one hell of a crazy ride should the experiment prove successful. We were not disappointed. Not in the slightest. Skype and FG worked fantastically and the next two years would prove to be yet another amazingly enjoyable, memorable and truly epic campaign across the globe in an effort to save the World from certain destruction at the hands of The Elder Gods. 

My Bro documented the journey from start to finish, so I’m not going to go in to the intricacies of the storyline but I’d like to add some snippets showing my favourite parts and the experiences that embodied the last two years for me from The Masks of Nyarlathotep campaign (You'll find the list after the jump). They are not in chronological order. Just the order that they popped in to my brain. There are a load more too. As the memories started to flow, I had to curb my input. There’s just too many to list!

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Monday, September 15, 2014

Masks of Nyarlathotep Campaign Journal: Chapter 36 - The End.

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And at the last from inner Egypt came
The strange dark one to whom the fellahs bowed;
Silent and lean and cryptically proud,
And wrapped in fabrics red as sunset flame.
Throngs pressed around, frantic for his commands,
But leaving, could not tell what they had heard:
While through the nations spread the awestruck word
That wild beasts followed him and licked his hands.
Soon from the sea a noxious birth began;
Forgotten lands with weedy spires of gold;
The ground was cleft, and mad auroras rolled
Down on the quaking citadels of man.
Then, crushing what he had chanced to mould in play,
The idiot Chaos blew Earth’s dust away.
Nyarlathotep by H.P. Lovecraft.

I knew that this was likely to be the final session of our epic two year campaign, so in an effort to try and give a more entertaining pulpy climax for the players I made a few changes to the campaign as written. First of all, as I had already engineered the arrival of the investigators for the 14th of January 1926, the date of the eclipse over the China seas, I decided to conflate the ritual of the birth and the ritual of the opening of the gate.

Secondly I decided to change the timing of the arrival of Nyarlathotep himself until after the ritual of the birth. Whilst the investigators had taken time to heal during their rest in the Kikuyu village they were still low on Sanity Points and I didn't want drive them all insane before they even had a chance to succeed in their mission.

If they got that far, at least...


"Gentlemen, you must prepare to travel to the Mountain of the Black Wind. Once there you must stop the birth of the son of the God of the Black wind. If you don't the son will rise, and he will open the Gates and bathe the lands in blood. Once you have stopped the birth, you must place the Eye upon his altar, and chain the god forever, stopping the Gates from opening".

It had all seemed so simple. Unfortunately the investigators hadn't counted on coming across 10,000 cultists in the valley outside the mountain, involved in a hideous ritual, that they would have to get past...
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Sunday, September 14, 2014

Stonemouth by Iain Banks

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StonemouthStonemouth by Iain Banks
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I thought I'd read all of Iain Banks' stuff, whether with middle "M" or not. Seems this one slipped under the radar somehow.

Anyway, I'm glad I found it because it's a real return to form, easily up there with The Crow Road and Espedair Street as far as his non-SF stuff goes.

It is, of course, full of the usual Banks cyphers and characters, taking in his usual stops of politics, dark humour, drug-taking, thriller, and romance along the way. If anything it's one of the more romantic books Banks has written, even if the main character is hard to sympathise with at first.

It's a real page turner, and written with such (seemingly) effortless skill that it is effortless to read as well. The story, plot, characters and writing all combine to make an incredibly readable novel. It made me laugh out loud, and one part even had me covering my eyes and physically wincing as I read it.

The themes of the book are easy to relate to - regret, guilt, and returning home after a long time away to find so much changed yet so much the same. The thriller/conspiracy aspect keeps the themes nicely tied up and the end is genuinely effecting.

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Friday, September 05, 2014

The Masked Empire by Patrick Weekes

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The Masked Empire (Dragon Age, #4)The Masked Empire by Patrick Weekes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I wasn't sure what to expect from the first Dragon Age book not written by David Gaider. To say I was pleasantly surprised would be an understatement. The book is still firmly rooted in the world of Thedas, but feels distinct from the other Dragon Age books both in setting and tone.

Like Asunder, the book is set in the Orliesian Empire, though rather than bound to the realms of the Chantry and Circle, this novel explores the politics and power struggles of the noble caste. The setting is different enough that the book, certainly for the first two-thirds, feels very different to the world of the earlier novels in the series, and it feels refreshing for that.

It also feels more like the world of the Dragon Age games to me, even though much of the books is spent with the skull-duggery and back-stabbing nobles, rather than being a grand fantasy adventure. When the book does eventually turn into a more traditional adventure, past the half-way mark, it actually loses some of it's character and pace.

The books is much more interested in the characters and their relationships than the earlier ones, and could even be read as a romance novel as there is a strong romantic tale that threads throughout. The ending is satisfying, paying off all the characters, but resolving little, and leaving things open for the next game in the series.

I'm looking forwards to playing Dragon Age Inquisition even more after reading The Masked Empire.

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Friday, August 29, 2014

Masks of Nyarlathotep Campaign Journal: Chapter 35 - Jailbirds and Chameleons

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The investigators finished the last session by escaping from the fire at the Nairobi Star, only to be confronted by a very angry man with a large elephant gun, the barrel of which was still smoking from the shot he had discharged above their heads.

"I've had enough of you Mrs Smythe-Forbes!" he shouted, his face turned ruddy under his slouch hat. "Your stories are ruining my business with your lies, and I won't take it any more!".

Mrs Smythe-Forbes tried vainly to placate the man, who turned out to be Colonel Endicott of the Endicott Game Lodge. He blamed Smythe-Forbes and her stories about the deaths near his lodge for a severe downturn in his safari business. Now wasn't the time to resolve the issue however, as the flames from the burning Star offices rose higher into the night sky.

Umm, oops!
"There's a fire! The building is on fire!" Colonel Endicott shouted, suddenly noticing the conflagration behind the investigators. Within a few moments the Colonel, Smythe-Forbes and the investigators had managed to organise a few locals and were vainly trying to douse the flames with buckets of water. In the distance a bell could be heard ringing, and soon after a horse-drawn water tender arrived, complete with hoses.
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