Monday, May 25, 2015

We Don't Need Another Hero

It's no secret that I've been running out of steam recently. Motivation was at an all time low, and I've been finding it hard to be enthusiastic about anything. It's a sad fact that sometimes real life gets in the way.

It didn't help that I'd been starting to doubt what I was doing with the RPG I'd be working on - WILD -  and the novels that I'd been writing that tied into the game that told the back story. Stepping back from the first novel, I was concerned that I was doing something wrong. I looked at what happened in it, and it felt like one long chase sequence.

Sure, there are plenty of character moments, and most of them are female characters (I think there are only three male characters in the whole thing). There's some emotion in there, family stuff and a quest for independence, and finding direction. But on the whole, the lead character finds herself in a bad and surreal situation, and then stumbles from one action sequence to the next.

There are hideous creatures, a surreal landscape, car chases, train chases, motorcycles, flying, robots, knights, and... well, if you can dream it, it can happen.

But I thought, "who'd want to read what is basically a massive chase?"

Then I saw something that changed my mind.

Mad Max: Fury Road

A film that has taken the internet by storm, with massively positive reviews. Like the previous instalments of Max's adventures, when you look at it from a distance the plot is a little thin. For example:

Mad Max: Cop tries to catch bad motorcycle gang, gang takes it out on cop's family, cop seeks revenge.

Mad Max 2 - The Road Warrior: Former cop needs petrol, people with petrol are under siege by bad gang, former cop helps in return for petrol.

Mad Max 3 - Beyond Thunderdome: Former cop wants his stuff back, gets screwed over by people with his stuff, finds kids who think he's their saviour, former cop (with help from kids) gets his stuff back and saves the kids.

The new one isn't too dissimilar...

Mad Max - Fury Road: Former cop gets screwed over by bad guys, one of the bad guys' best people runs off with the big bad's favourite ladies, former cop gets caught up in the fight, joins those running from the bad guys.

Just like the previous movies, Max isn't really much of a hero, more a befuddled and reluctant participant. Dragged into the fight by his own selfishness before realising that there are other people who have a noble and worth cause worth fighting for. He ends up joining them, and helping them, tipping the balance a little to help them to get what they want - whether that is freedom, justice, gasoline, or Tomorrow-morrow Land. A lot of the time it looks like they'd get what they want with or without his help anyway.

I first saw the first two Mad Max movies in the most unlikely of places... A large stately home in Yorkshire regularly held a classic and custom car rally where people from all over the country would bring their shiny cars and park them up on the grass, and the public could wander around and look at the cool cars. My dad was always really into cars - not in a gear-head way, but in an "appreciating cool and vintage cars" way. He used to collect the Matchbox cars of vintage motors and had them displayed all over the house, so the chance to look at the real thing was too good for him to pass up. So mum and dad would go, and I'd tag along, sometimes with one of my school friends (usually Cooper or Mole).

One year we found a room near to the car exhibition where there were loads of kids just sitting and watching movies. I say kids, they were mostly teenagers, family of those people who owned the cars. They had a TV and a VHS player set up in the room. While mum and dad looked at the cars, I sat on the floor and pretended to belong and watched a lot of Mad Max, and all of Mad Max 2, before I was discovered and kicked out. (Strangely, I remember watching a lot of Rocky 2 this way as well another year).

Maybe it was seeing it at a young age, but Mad Max always stuck in my head. And travelling around Australia last year, seeing the long and straight roads, looking out of the windows of the Ghan railway at the orange desert that seemed to stretch off into the distance on both sides, I couldn't help but think of Mad Max.

The Lasseter Highway heading to Uluru. Mostly straight and fast,
just how Max likes it. (Taken 2014)
It could be that having the Max movies in my head from such a young age has influenced what I write on a subconscious level. Seems only apt as most of the fiction takes place within the dreams of someone trapped in them.

Thinking about the plot of the first book of the trilogy that is set in the WILD universe - the eighteen year old daughter of the tech mogul who will go on to develop the dreamshare technology - finds herself in the surreal mindscape of another version of our reality. Like home, but slightly twisted. A dark Silent Hill alternate. She escapes a number of threats before embarking on a dangerous trip to find a way out of her nightmares.

I realised that she spends a lot of time like Max, the befuddled and reluctant participant. She just wants to go home, to her real home, but is caught up in dangerous situations - conflicts with monsters, knights, robots, and more, each could represent her own personal internal battles...

For a time I thought about giving up on it. Just packing it in. Not only writing the WILD novels, but giving up on writing WILD the RPG as well... Hell, I've even thought about giving up RPG writing entirely - accept my place as a shop assistant.

But you know what?

Sod it.

I'm going to muddle on. Chipping away at it. Walking the desert landscape of my creativity a little further every day. Who knows, I may find my Tomorrow-morrow Land. My Green Place. And actually know what the hell it is I'm supposed to be writing.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Harry Potter Roleplaying Game

...that could have been.

Over the last four weeks I've been posting the pitch for the Harry Potter RPG that I started putting together when we started talking to Warner Bros about the possibility of the game. Nothing came of it, and they didn't see the pitch in the end, so I thought I'd post it online so that (a) you could see what could have been, and (b) hope above all hope that someone will see the posts and realise that it's a great idea and... well, we can dream.

The mocked up sample character sheets, presented as a report card and receipt
from Ollivanders. 

I started a new blog post about Mad Max: Fury Road, and how a non-stop chase movie with very strong and independent female characters has similarities with the series of novels I've been working on for the WILD RPG, but I want to give the post the time it deserves.

Meanwhile, I thought it would be useful if I collated all of the Harry Potter posts together for easy reference and access.

The first post looked at how a Harry Potter roleplaying game would be a great thing - how it would encourage new players to stretch their imaginations, and empower their social skills away from the lure of the computer screen - as well as looking at how it would remain true and respectful to J K Rowling's work and vision, and wouldn't diminish the wonderful books and films.

You can read the first post, "Adventures in a World of Magic" here:

The second week I looked at the product itself in more detail, looking at how the game would look like a Hogwarts textbook, and immerse the players into Harry's world by keeping the feel of Rowling's brilliantly envisioned setting.

You can read the second post, "Of course it's happening inside your head, Harry..." here:

The third post really got down to the details of the game system and how it works, looking at the character sheets, stats, how the dice are used, and how simple mechanics can maintain the feel of the wizarding world, and suspend the belief of the players.

You can read "It's our choices, Harry..." here:

The fourth and final post looked at the supplements that could be produced for the game, expanding the potential to provide players with endless possibilities that will keep players of all ages playing for months and years to come.

You can find the last post, "The mind is not a book..." here:

Thank you all for listening. We'll get onto a new topic next week!

Until then, stay multi-classy!

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

The Mind is Not a Book... be opened at will and examined at leisure."
- Severus Snape, Harry Potter & The Order of the Phoenix

Over the last three weeks I've been posting about the pitch I put together for a potential Harry Potter roleplaying game, from why a Harry Potter RPG would be a good thing, how it would respect the books and films, going into detail about the core set and how the game would look, as well as some initial thoughts about game system and how it would reflect the source material. 

In a final post, I thought I'd take a quick look at potential supplements for the line, and how it would take the game beyond Hogwarts and into the world of magic.

The collector's edition of Page to Screen, along with the collector's
Beedle the Bard, and other Harry Potter reference books!

Each supplement would be presented as a book that could actually exist in the wizarding world, complete with cover design and layout that would fit right in on a shelf in Hogwarts. 

Senior Years Supplemental Textbook

Presented as a guide for selecting the optional courses, this book expands upon the rules of the game and allows students to choose their options in the Third Year (adding two of the following courses – Arithmancy, Care of Magical Creatures, Divination, Muggle Studies and Study of Ancient Runes) as well as the more advanced versions of their usual classes. 

The book also presents some of the really advanced magical techniques that are taught to the older students, and prepares them for their OWLs and NEWTs. Apparation and other more exclusive classes are covered for use if there is enough demand for the staff to warrant running the classes (for Sixth and Seventh Year students).

The rules also aid the Headmaster in creating more and more challenging adventures for older students at Hogwarts, taking the game to vast and epic proportions!

The Ministry of Magic

Some students may wish to seek a career at the Ministry of Magic once their education at Hogwarts is complete. The Ministry offers many opportunities to the wizarding graduate and this set of additional rules allow players to continue to game while working for the Ministry. 

The various departments are covered, most notably the exciting Department of Magical Law Enforcement, and the legendary Auror Office, as well as the Improper Use of Magic Office, Magical Law Enforcement Squad, the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office, and the Detection and Confiscation of Counterfeit Defensive Spells and Protective Objects Office.

Of course, if they don’t fancy a career there, there are plenty of other options available including the various offices in the Department of Magical Accidents and Catastrophes, the Department of International Magical Cooperation, the Department of Magical Games and Sports, the Department of Magical Transportation, the Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures, and the ever secretive Department of Mysteries. 

The Wizengamot will not be an option for the players.

The Ministry of Magic opens up a new world of gameplay for the players, taking on the various tasks of Ministry officials, investigating strange goings on and the misuse of magic in the wizarding world. It also doubles as an essential resource as a location for visiting Hogwarts students.

Headmaster’s Office

It’s all well and good being in charge of things, but it can be a bit tricky sometimes trying to juggle all of the staff, the pupils and the classes, and that’s before any of those unforeseen catastrophes happen. This book provides advice and additional game rules for the Headmaster to help them with running the game, planning new adventures and what to do if the players decide to go off in unexpected directions. 

Monster Book of Monsters as it appears in
the Prisoner of Azkaban movie

Monster Book of Monsters

While the Basic Game provides a smattering of monsters and bizarre creatures that may be encountered during the average school year – whether this is during class or through reckless venturing into the Forbidden Forest – it only begins to scratch the surface of the vast menagerie of wild and wonderful creatures that inhabit the wizarding world. Cataloguing some of the most interesting, rare and exciting creatures to be encountered, this is a handy resource for anyone wishing to explore or hoping for a career in the Ministry of Magic’s Department for the Regulation and Control of Magical Creatures.

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find
Them, cover by MinaLima designed
for the films
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them

Expanding upon the Monster Book of Monsters, this adds even more information about magical creatures through history, and expands the game into the era of Newt Scamander and the new trilogy of movies set within the wizarding world. This adds new, post school career options for magical explorers and opens up the world to budding Gilderoy Lockharts everywhere.

Magical Schools of the Wizarding World

Hogwarts is well known to be one of the most prestigious places to gain a magical education. Certainly, after the defeat of Voldemort, it has become one of the most famous wizarding schools of its kind. But it is most definitely not the only one. While some choose to home school their young wizards and witches, other schools are out there in case Hogwarts is considered potentially too dangerous. Of course, these other schools are the institutions of choice for those in the country where they are located, but sometimes exchanges and such events as the Tri-Wizard Tournament mean that interaction with other schools becomes part of the academic year.

Defence Against the Dark Arts
book prop cover from the films
designed by MinaLima
This book gives the Headmaster additional information and rules for setting their game at Durmstrang or Beauxbatons, or possibly even a whole new school of their choosing, or for incorporating students from other schools as part of an exchange program or tournament at Hogwarts.

Defence Against the Dark Arts 

One of the most dangerous lessons in the academic year, this deserves an additional textbook of its own. Not only does this provide information for the Headmaster about the dark magic out there in the wizarding world, but also provides details for a host of Villains and evildoers that the students may have to face as part of their adventures. However, the most essential information within this tome is advice for the student on how to defend themselves against such evil and how to counter any of their dastardly plots.

Hogwarts - A History, book prop
cover by MinaLima for the movies.
Hogwarts – A History

Hogwarts is a huge place with a colourful and eventful history. This essential handbook for the budding Hogwarts Headmaster collects all of the necessary background information about the school, the various locations within the walls and in its surroundings – from the astronomy tower to the dungeons, from the Headmaster’s office to the Chamber of Secrets, right out to the Owlery and the Quidditch Pitch, to the Dark Lake, the Forbidden Forrest and Hogsmeade. 


And that's it. That's everything that has been compiled to date in my head for a potential Harry Potter roleplaying game. Ideas are always popping into mind, but I'll leave these blogposts as it. It would be amazing if this line were to be made, but for now they will remain as fantastic books in my overactive imagination. 

Maybe one day, execs from Warner Bros. or the legendary J K Rowling herself will see these posts, see what a great game it could be, how it would be respectful to Harry's world and Rowling's amazing creation, and how it could spark the imagination of kids and adults alike.

We can but dream.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

It is our choices, Harry...

...that show us who we truly are, far more than our abilities." - Albus Dumbledore

Sample character sheet (designed as Report Cards)
along with a wand sheet (as a receipt from Ollivanders)
[prototypes by D.F.Chapman]
A couple of weeks ago I posted about the Harry Potter roleplaying game that I've always wanted to write, and how it would be a great idea that would build kids imagination as well as stay true and respectful to its sources. Then, last week, I posted the basic pitch, looking at the main game product and how it would be packaged and put together.

This week, continuing the topic, I thought I'd look at the actual game system and how it could work to replicate the feel of Harry Potter and the wizarding world.

When the pitch documents were first put together, the basic idea was to use the Vortex system I'd created for Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space for Cubicle 7 Entertainment. It seemed the easy thing to do, adapting the gadget rules to work for magic items, and so on.

But the more I thought about it, the more I reconsidered. Sure, the basic mechanic could remain, but it didn't necessarily need to. Working on my pet project, WILD, the RPG of dreamshare, creating a system for that naturally fired off some new ideas of how a game system would work for Harry Potter.

Let's look at the basics.

Most roleplaying games (Doctor Who included) use a basic Attribute and Skill mechanic. Add the two together, or one modifies the other, and bingo. Harry Potter would be similar, except the Attributes and Skills would be a little more broader ranging and less restrictive. 

Everybody can do everything, its just that some people are better at some things than others. Neville is brilliant at Herbology, and Hermione lacks the talent for Divination. But they can all do it.

Attributes, rather than the usual Strength, Dexterity, etc. would be simply the following four:

Brave, Cunning, Dedicated and Wise.

It's rare that something happens in the world of Harry Potter that wouldn't fit into one of those four. 

You'll notice that those four descriptors seem a little familiar. That's because those are the key words usually associated with the four houses of Hogwarts - Gryffindor, Slytherin, Hufflepuff and Ravenclaw respectively. Students would have one of these "attributes" at 5, one at 4, another at 3 and one at 2. The high Attribute would determine the House the student it sorted into. Highest Attribute is Wise? Ravenclaw! Have your 5 in Cunning? Slytherin! 

But what about strength, or dexterity I hear you ask. Well, that's where the "skills" come into it. Instead of a long list of Skills like athletics, firearms, dodge and so on, it makes more sense to simply break it down into the classes that the students attend in Hogwarts. Flying is mandatory for first years, and the remaining classes (Astronomy, Charms, Defense Against the Dark Arts, Herbology, History of Magic, Potions and Transfiguration) covers just about everything needed in the game. Hence the Dumbledore quote at the beginning of this blog post.

Once the students reach their third year, they opt to choose another two classes out of Arithmancy, Care of Magical Creatures, Divination, Muggle Studies and Study of Ancient Runes, just like in the school. 

Then, simply, you'd roll a couple of dice, add the suitable Attribute and the correct Class, and try to beat the difficulty of the task, just like Doctor Who.

But thinking of the Doctor Who system, the results of the rolls used to be split into three levels of success, and three levels of failure, using the very cool Yes, But, No, And style of gaming. 

Success Table from the 11th Doctor Edition of Doctor Who: Adventures in Time and Space
You know what else has three levels of success and failure?


Ordinary Wizarding Levels - the wizarding world exams.

It's like it was meant to be!  

How the Success Table would work just like O.W.L. results!
However, the more I thought about it, the more I thought that you could break down the classes and group them into even more generic terms. I came up with the idea of just using five, named after places in Hogwarts -

Charms Class, Library, Quidditch Pitch, Common Room, Divination Class

Charms Class would cover all magic usage that involved wands,
Library would cover any research or information, or academic magic like Herbology or Potions
Quidditch Pitch would be for flying, or any athletics and physical activity.
Common Room could cover all of the social interaction, and
Divination Class would not only cover prophecies and divination, but also perception.

It would certainly make it simpler...

These broad definitions could be paired with report comments like "exceeds at the Patronus Charm", or "often suffers from explosive side-effects", which could give bonuses and penalties, like the Good or Bad Traits in Doctor Who.


A closer look at the character sheets, designed to look like Report Cards -
The corner is cut off, and it is a sleeve you can tuck the equipment cards into
for ease of storage.
With character sheets that look like report cards, wand sheets with information of the wand's qualities on mock Ollivanders receipts, the other options are endless... Broom sheets as receipts from Broomstix, or Quality Quidditch Supplies... and familiar sheets with stats for owls, toads or cats from Eeylops Owl Emporium or the Magical Menagerie on Diagon Alley.

Rough doodle for a possible Chocolate Frog Card
You could take the props route even further with a couple of other options for task resolution. 

Working on WILD, I've been toying with using cards instead of dice for task resolution, using Tarot to inspire not only how you succeed but also what happens. Something similar could be done for Harry Potter using Chocolate Frog Cards...

Four suits, equals each of the Houses / Attributes, and extra symbols on the cards could be used for extra effects or for a quick Quidditch resolution system. Major cards could represent the most common charms, and the symbols could even be used for wizard duelling...

For a simpler task resolution system, you only need to look to Cubicle 7's Lone Wolf RPG for inspiration. In a genius move, rather than using dice, you flip a counter into the lid of the box and it lands on a grid of numbers which gives you a result. Simple! Brilliant. What does that sound a little like?


Using a printed counter that looks like a gobstone, you could flip them into the lid of the box onto a grid (that could look a lot like a gobstone playing field) to replace dice rolling. You could even have places on the grid that would be when the stone spits at you, indicating a disastrous result!


I could go into more detail about how Quidditch would work, wizard duelling, and more, but this is already a lot to take in. As you can tell, the Harry Potter RPG is constantly on my mind, suggesting new and exciting ways of running the game, talking to me like a Horcrux in the night.

Next post I may look at the supplements and expansions to the game, taking it to later years, and out into the Ministry of Magic, Aurors, and beyond.

Until then, stay multi-classy, and if you like what you've read, please share it far and wide - who knows, if the right people see it, magic could happen...