Friday, 2 March 2012

Ramsay - 1981

Around two or so years ago a group of friends and I decided that, for the first time in 14 years, we would play a role-playing game. All keen gamers back in our younger days we convened here in Bradford from as far afield as Hull and Manchester and proceed to get utterly langered on manhattans, port, pork pie and brooklyn bombers. Needless to say a combination of the degree of inebriation and my appalling rustiness in the GM's chair resulted in a far from satisfactory gaming experience, although it was a whole heap of fun. It did not deter us and we tried again a while later, this time with Loz in the hot-seat and one man down on the previous session. This shedding would occur again following another entertaining but somewhat painful WW2 based Call of Cthulhu idiot-fest. After things tumbled into oblivion, accelerated on the part of a colossally inebriated GM, the second man jumped ship on the grounds of being too old/cool/disappointed (delete as necessary), in the process taking no responsibility whatsoever for the fact that we were all half-cut getting underway due to his appalling punctuality and then even more so once the game was in full swing thanks to his hour and a half preparation and insistence that parachuting into WW2 Greece disguised as a monk replete with fake beard was more than reasonable. That left Loz, stalwart drinker Yarky and myself remaining from the initial regrouping.

I love RPGs and despite not having gamed for 14 years I had continued to amass various games and supplements of all shapes and sizes, as well as managing to sell a few on amazon (for good money too in some cases, £189.99 for a Delta Green supplement*), and my appetite remains undiminished for gaming action. Thanks to Mr Cameron I have had the time recently to contemplate more regular sessions.

Despite the casualties we continued unbowed and for the past year or so we have, once every 4-6 weeks, engaged in a Hawkmoon game with some more old friends from way back. We're all scattered over the country but make the effort once in a while to get together with a pile of booze and some dice. It's been an inspiration to me that one guy I had only seen twice in the last 14 years was, for the sake of his love for the hobby, prepared to accept a 130 mile round trip, including an overnight stay, to reconnect.

So the Hawkmoon/Moorcocky weirdness game continued once every six weeks or so, capably handled in the GM seat by latter-day pioneer, fop and all round iron balls Loz, until a point where he wanted very much to play again, I took over and it just kind of ran out of steam, largely I think due to a lack of investment in the setting on the part of the majority of the players. Bizarrely we have ended up with 6-8 players every session and we actually have a waiting list of folks wanting to get involved. This is more than we had way back when, in those golden days of yore. Unfortunately they are all mostly 'along for the ride' types who generally need to be spoonfed. This may well be due of course to the fact that we're all adults from 38-45 with families, children, rats, credit cards, keys etc so researching the entire Eternal Champion canon for the sake of a drunken game night once every six weeks is a tall order.

As a result I decided on a radical course of action (that did not involve introducing Mrs House into the game, just in case any Moorcock nerds were wondering/fearing)**.

A wee while ago I came across a scifi RPG called Diaspora. Diaspora uses the Fate system introduced in Spirit of the Century and further developed for the likes of Starblazer Adventures and sister game The Legends of Anglerre amongst others. Apart from being a really good, folio sized read (excellent bathroom book) it also details a communal method of developing the in-game environs, in this case a number of star systems and planets. This struck me instantly as a brilliant and, thanks to the rules-set, elegant way of investing the players in a game whose genre is perhaps unfamiliar to them beyond mainstream media and a background that is developed by the group in little pieces, rather than an expectation that they either do extensive background reading or that the GM has to drip feed everybody and shoulder the majority of the burden every time we play.

With this in mind I decided a basic premise. First of all the background needed to be familiar, but different enough to excite the imagination of the players. As we all originate from fairly small towns in the North of England, and as everybody likes a bit of horror and weirdness I came upon the idea of Ramsay, a small fictional town and surrounding area on the fringes of Cumbria, Lancashire and North Yorkshire. It is 1981 and the players are generally fairly normal with one exception, they all have an experience of something strange (thank you Unknown Armies), a glimpse of the weird and barely seen underbelly of society. Henceforth I invited the players to join me in fleshing out the bare bones which I had established and to generate characters using the Unknown Armies system, thanks to its enormous flexibility and excellent passions/stability mechanics. We now have an increasingly well fleshed out background, a number of developing NPCs (including the characters' in-game BoL Dungeon Master Clive) and a beautifully realised A3 map of the town and surroundings courtesy of particularly creative and artistic Sarah.

We played for the first time properly a couple of weeks ago. I ran a modified version of the scenario Crook's End from Pelgrane's tremendous Book of Unremitting Horror with some decent success. It was generally a haunted house game with some added elements and I was a little bit rusty as it is some time since I've GM'd anything like it (ie relying on pace and mood rather than moral dilemmas and fighting). The real success of the endeavour though was that nobody questioned any element or said 'what's a falchion/eldren/off-moo'.


Next installment takes place in late March. Ramsay continues to grow and develop. GAME ON!

*I later bought it again for £55, ker-ching.

**Of course due to the extremely limited readership of this tract that Moorcock nerd will probably only be me anyway

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