Battlecry Liason Officer
Pseudodragon cover art courtesy of Kymmy Skelton.
This year, we have made AMERICA great again. Now that that is out of the way, we can talk about our real achievements this year.
Membership is up. We have more twenty more members than last year. AMERICA has recently acquired the beginnings of a board game library. This is currently stored in the club locker, and will be available to Wednesday night gamers.
The AMERICA Club library list has been uploaded to the club Facebook group. People are taking books out. Personally, I am enjoying GURPS: Discworld.
GravesCon (AKA Gravestock) and AMERICA’s Cup have been massive successes. The Epic in AMERICA’s Cup a real highlight. AMERICA also sponsored the creation of CCC-AMER-01, our very own Wizard’s published D&D module.
I hope you have found participating in AMERICA Club this year as wonderful as I have.
AMERICA Club President
D&D in the Media
Author: Sarah Albom
First published in 1974, D&D, or Dungeons and Dragons, is now a popular tabletop role-playing game that has been played by an estimated 20 million people worldwide. Until recently, it has faced controversy and negative connotations through mass media. But did this stunt game growth, or allow for the game to gain even more interest?
Several unrelated incidents in early years caused the game to earn a bad reputation. Patricia Pulling, the mother of Irving Pulling, was a significant critic of D&D. She believed the game caused her son’s suicide. Describing it as a “game which uses demonology, witchcraft, voodoo, murder, rape”, and more, she strongly advocated for its regulation. Under these premises, she created B.A.D.D. (Bothered About Dungeons and Dragons). The advocacy group continued for over 15 years. Mass media caught on to the panic of such individuals and heightened paranoia. Multiple articles from the 1980s and even up until the turn of the millennium implied that D&D encouraged Satanism and allowed its players to adopt an escapist role from society. Popular media and news coverage in the early days of the game portrayed D&D as a ridiculous fantasy game. It was believed that D&D at best allowed for childish pretend and at worst converted users to Satanism.
For some, the appeal of D&D came from this controversy. Kids could play it as a form of rebellion. The game became legendary through negative exposure. As a result, popularity boomed. Players enjoyed the unlimited imagination, the strategies they could employ, and the fantastical collaborating in a friendly environment. Modern day video and online gaming may have thrust these types of concepts into mainstream media, but in the 1980s they were revolutionary.
Modern media still shows the taboo of this time and its continued effects on the modern day. Netflix’s Stranger Things features children in the 1980s who play D&D. Shown as partial outcasts in the community, they are snubbed by their peers. Dangerously Adorable Productions’ mockumentary Fear of Girls has modern gamers shown as nerdy outcasts or socially inept. American sitcom The Big Bang Theory’s entire humorous premise is based on the strange quirks of ‘nerds’ and how they are unable to function in modern day society. Stereotypes often occur in mainstream media for humorous effect. Audiences readily accept widely known concepts like these as fact. But this cultural norm damages the overall reputation of pop culture.
As mainstream culture and pop culture begin to merge, D&D has been accepted as more commonplace. The rise of social media platforms allows niche markets like tabletop role-playing to gain prominence. YouTube is especially important, with many different groups creating shows where viewers can watch D&D games regularly. Some of these shows, like the first episode of the YouTube Heroes & Halfwits series, have over 1 million views. Celebrities like Vin Diesel and Wil Wheaton regularly play the game. Because D&D is now more mainstream, more people who formerly wouldn’t have been interested can try out the game. But on the whole, general interest in the game is declining. Players are turning to online gaming, with high-tech graphics and storylines created by writers over the course of months. There is also a possible correlation that, as D&D controversy has subsided, so has interest in the game.
Today, some individuals still speak out against D&D and stereotypes run rampant in mainstream media. However, the overall consensus has switched in favour of D&D and related games. There is a long way to go until mainstream entertainment no longer negatively portrays gamers, but social media is helping turn the tide. Interest in D&D itself may be subsiding, but this is not necessarily a negative. The game rose to be more than a mere trend. It is a prominent part of pop culture and will continue to be a concept turning point for many years to come.
School of Magic – Welcome to Braewelth!
Author: Valerie Huggard
Ever feel like your magic school letter got lost in the mail? Do you enjoy solving puzzles and dressing up? How about school camp? What if I told you you could spend a weekend going to magic school camp with a bunch of like-minded individuals in West Auckland? Have I got your attention now?
Introducing School of Magic, an Auckland based live action roleplay game happening the first weekend of October. For those not familiar, with live action roleplay (LARP). It’s a type of roleplay game where the participants act out scenarios, usually dressed up to suit the type of game and using props to enhance the emersion.
If you’ve ever wanted to pretend you were a wizard and wave around a wand (or wield a pounamu) you would be a perfect fit for School of Magic.
Do I need to have participated in a LARP before?
School of Magic has been crafted for people who have never played a game like this before. We already have players registered and a lot of them are people who have never been a part of anything like this before (you won’t be alone!). Not only that, it has been kept small, and is a one-off, which means the entire story is designed to be completed in a single weekend. This really takes the pressure off as there are no subsequent games to worry about afterward.
What is it that you DO at School of Magic?
In this game you will be a year 7 student who has been attending Braewelth, School of Magic. Braewelth is the only magic school in New Zealand and will be mixing western and New Zealand specific magic ideas. The year is just beginning and the entire year 7 class is going to school camp to begin the year.
This means you will be a sorted into one of the four houses (at Braewelth students are sorted years 1, 4 and 7 to reflect how people change as they grow up), share meals in the dining hall, and attend classes. Of course, you can always cut class and explore the campsite. But don’t be surprised if you get detention!
Plans don’t always go accordingly and there might be something foul afoot that may need to be dealt with over the weekend.
This all sounds great, but I always wanted to be a teacher at a magic school…’
Lets go over the roles you can play in the game. There are two bodies needed to run any LARP: ‘Players’ and ‘Crew’.
In School of Magic, the players are the students. Players create a character, complete with back story and key traits, and essentially react to what is going on around them: trying to solve puzzles, bluff their way out of a situations, make friends in character, etc.
The other half is crew. In this game crew are mainly teachers, but also things like ghosts, bad guys, people who work at the campsite and everything in between. The big difference is crew do not get to pick their characters, they are given roles and are sent out to interact with the players, giving them puzzles or teaching classes or creating obstacles.
Crew members are flexible, able to take direction from the GMs, comfortable with talking to strangers and acting out many different people over the weekend.
If you are quite new to LARP I would recommend being a player as it is definitely the easier role, but if you’re say a seasoned actor looking to work on your improvisation, crew might be a great role for you.
This sounds awesome, where can I learn more about it?’
To answer that first question you can learn more about the game on its Facebook group ‘School of Magic NZ LARP’, all you need to do is ask to join the group.
Once in, check out the files. There is a lore document which tells you a little more about the school’s history. The lore will help set the scene and give inspiration for creating a character in the world of Braewelth.
Next have a look at the Character Creation form, this is filled with questions to help you create a full character.
There are also a couple of ‘Braewelth Bulletins’, which are extracts from the school newspaper.
As for the second question, yes the game does cost money. This is to cover the accommodation, food provided (2 breakfasts, 2 lunches, 1 dinner and 1 supper), costumes and props. Players also receive a themed school letter in the post (finally!) and a custom house t-shirt.
Does this cost anything?
For the entire weekend, Friday evening to Sunday afternoon: Player spots are $130 and Crew spots are $90.
At this point, there are four players spots left and about ten crew spots. If all the crew spots get filled, more player spots will open. Currently. the game is for 40 people in total.
If you’re interested and have some questions, please feel free to email the GM team at [email protected] or find us at https://www.facebook.com/groups/349805718835931/
From the catacombs – Traveller
Author: David Harrop
Greetings and welcome back to this continuing series of games of yesteryear. This time out I would like to introduce the gentle reader to what was considered back in the early days to be one of the big three, Traveller by Games Designer Workshop (GDW) first published in 1977.
At first, I was somewhat concerned about reviewing this classic as it is one of the better selling games of its time. Traveller has survived the collapse of GDW through new editions and even a turn being converted into the D20 open licence system and conversion to GURPS. It’s in its fifth edition under Far Future Enterprises in 2013, as well as a second edition by Mongoose publishing suing their in-house system in 2016.
Traveller has always held gamers hearts due to its vast setting and multitude of worlds that can be created to any level of detail the GM wishes. Players can literally go anywhere and do anything in this game.
Boy this is a big one, the setting is the third Imperium, a vast space empire that covers thousands of parsecs area within the same galaxy as Earth (herein called Terra, itself formerly a part of the Solomani confederation until the last Solomani-Imperium war where the Imperium took control), ruled over by Emperor Strephon the 3rd seated upon the iridium throne on the world Capital. The Imperium is a technological feudal state governed over by various ranks of nobility and the Imperial Moot, a council that every noble above the rank of Baron technically belongs to (though many simply have their votes given as proxies to higher nobles as their duties do not often allow them to journey for 464 days to the Capital to participate).
Within the Imperium the vast majority of the populace are human in one form or another, the game lists three main types, Vilani descent, Solomani descent and Zhodani, (in the Imperium only the first two are found), along with a scattering of so called minor races of various alien species who are either near the same level as the Imperium in development or somewhat behind it yet still in contact. Worlds are governed by many different political systems ranging from tribal elders, through to democracy and eventually to religious dictatorship. Though all owe fealty to the Imperium, in the end, enforced by the might of the Imperial navy and the bureaucracy. In short the Imperium is monolithic, highly varied between worlds and held together by a jump capable system of express messenger boats that ferry messages and information across space. Again, the Imperium is so large that an event in Capital can take upwards of two standard years (normal earth years) to reach the furthest edges.
Into this the characters are travellers, those free living individuals who use star ships to ply trade, seek adventure and generally explore the Imperium and its secrets. And, that’s just the basic setting, the rest is added to in a series of alien modules that detail the other major star faring races and their empires. Further expanding the known universe beyond the borders of the Imperium. If one can imagine a world of science fantasy it probably exists somewhere in the Traveller setting.
The default settings for the game consists of two sectors: the Spinward Marches sector and the Solomani Rim sector. Both of which are divided into 16 subsectors and detailed in two supplements with world data and trade routes all laid out to make the GM’s and the players jobs just that much easier. Both of these sectors are right on the frontier of territorial space for the Imperium with the Spinward Marches brushing borders with the enemy Zhodani and the alien Vargr Extents and contains a variety of tech levels and world types. The Solomani Rim is the border sector with Terra in it that defines the current extent of the Imperium and the Solomani Confederation and has a more uniform level of technology with larger clearly defined political entities making a perfect place for espionage and political based campaigns.
Most GM’s would focus on one sector at most during a campaign with maybe one or two subsectors detailed to a high degree. The most common being the Spinward Marches where the Imperium contents with the Border Worlds and the Sword World Confederation who are enemies of the Imperium and not necessarily friends with anyone else. The Darrian Confederation made up of a human offshoot race that have managed to stay neutral between the Imperium and Zhodani Consulate by the simple expedient of having a weapon so terrible that their disposal (one that can cause supernovas) that the two traditional enemies have limited their activities with the Darrian’s to diplomatic and trade only. It is the perfect stage for any kind of space opera style campaign that can be conceived.
As one can no doubt see, a simple summary is not enough to truly convey the sheer scale of the setting and can only touch on a few main points that serve to demonstrate its key feature: its sheer size.
The basics of the system were roll 2D6 and apply dice modifiers (either positive of negative) such as skill levels and circumstances to the result and had to equal or exceed a target number as determined by the GM. In combat this number was set at 8+ and was further modified by referencing a weapons chart versus armour type for the dice modifier which itself was further modified by range (for fire combat). Skill target numbers oddly enough were nebulous, the GM sets a target and go from there (something the MegaTraveller version addressed by setting standard difficulties). This could lead to some disagreements between players and GMs over perception of just how difficult a particular task was. Though published scenarios had some tasks pre-set giving a guideline for future adventures and did resolve a number of these issues, but by far not all of them.
The charts for combat at first can appear daunting, especially if one includes the supplemental books. However, once the basics of skill plus/minus dice modifiers and add dice roll are understood the numbers start to make sense.
Character generation for this system entered gaming folk lore thanks to one peculiarity. Traveller was the first game to introduce the concept of a life path style of creation. The six stats of strength dexterity, endurance, intelligence, education and social standing were rolled on 2D6 (for humans, other races detailed in their own books had other dice ranges) with any result over 9 being listed by letter form in the so called hexadecimal system (it was not true hexadecimal as letter codes went beyond 15 (F) and up to over 20(O). Skills were not chosen or allocated based upon class, instead the character opted for a particular occupation and tried to enlist in that occupation by rolling under the enlistment target on 2D6 with dice modifiers, success meant they could be that occupation, failure meant a 1D6 draft roll to find out what occupation that character could be. This could include the original occupation, though any promotion benefits etc. were lost for the first term if that occurred. What followed then was a cycle of four year terms where one rolled to survive the current term, become commissioned if not already an officer, and promotion in that occupation. Success in any of these granted either one or two rolls of promoted on the four skills tables, the player chose which table they wished to roll on, rolled 1D6 and applied modifiers if applicable with the result being either a level in a skill or a stat increase.
Damage was based on the weapon and used D6 in various numbers, with damage applied to the three physical stats. When one was reduced to zero the character was unconscious, two severely wounded and needing medical help to recover, three was a dead character. This lack of a hit point total made Traveller unusual compared to other contemporary games at the time.
The peculiarity mentioned above was the failure of the survival roll, if a character did so they were assumed to have suffered a fatal accident and character generation was over, start a new character. This could occur quite frequently if the character was set on a military career option and provided endless gaming magazines comic material for cartoons and stories about poor Traveller players trying to make a character that survived long enough to be playable. What has been omitted from recollections about this game was the optional rule clearly stated in the character generation system that should a character fail the survival roll they could instead assume that some terrible set back occurred and they were severely injured rather than killed, and gained two extra years to their age for no additional benefits of any kind.
The cycle then continued until the character failed to survive (using the optional rule) or the player deemed the character ready to muster out and become part of play. This lead to a number of old characters, the average player character being 38 years of age (18 plus four terms of four years) with aging effects reducing stats kicking in at 34. Another limiting factor was a character could have no more skills and skill levels than they had combined intelligence and education scores. Meaning many reached their limit long before aging became a factor, again it was another rule often ignored in favour of having a useful range of skills.
After the cycle had ended the player calculated the number of times they could roll for mustering out benefits. Either physical objects or stat increases, or monetary with only three rolls maximum of the total being allowed on the cash table, certain rank and gambling skill allowing a positive +1 dice modifier to the roll. This was the only way a character could start with a star ship in game.
The rest of the rules systems covered world building, lifeform creation, custom ship building and of course Psionics, or Psi powers for the uninitiated. Unlike other skills, Psi powers were tested for after character generation and the levels of power were directly affected by age. The older one was, the less power one had in particular fields of Psionics, making them more a gimmick for Imperial players (other races have their own rules covering Psionics). In all other respects they were treated like skills and used Psi points to empower them when needed. Again limiting their use as some of the higher level powers required big numbers in Psi points to work (it was possible to have a power one could never use because their power reserve was too small).
That said, Traveller had a straight forward system that used one dice rolling convention for practically everything, even if difficulty levels were not defined in the first editions.
Traveller was perhaps one of the best supported games of its day with over 13 separate A5 book supplements detailing everything from NPCs, short mission major NPCs, library data about the universe (an almost must have for GMs), different kinds of ships available for players to use and own, new character classes, in game paperwork props, more detailed animal types and encounters. To this was added 5 advanced character books (books 4-8) expanding on the naval, mercenary (army), merchant and scout careers, as well as robots as NPCs and potentially players.
Alien modules 1- 8 detailed the major human and non-human races not covered by the base rules and included new careers specific for them as well as ship types, world creation and so forth. To that were added 13 adventure books set in one of the main sectors for ready to go action as well as 6 double adventure books containing two short adventures a piece.
The setting also had two box sets detailing two start systems and included enough materials to run an entire campaign in that location, these being Beltstrike and Tarsus. The Traveller Adventure book which contained an entire campaign based in the Spinward Marches. And, secondly, the Atlas of the Imperium that mapped out every start system within the Imperium (though it did not give any details on these locations other than their presence and what could be gleaned from the standard map symbols).
The game was further supported by the Journal of the Travellers Aid Society (an in game organisation) that ran for 24 A5 magazines before GDW switched to Challenge magazine to support their new game Twilight 2000 alongside Traveller (Challenge’s first issue was actually called 25 as a nod toward the previous publication that became a regular feature until more games were added to the article base, and all subsequent issues continued from 25 in numbering). These magazines included new rules, scenario ideas, new races and so forth.
For all its quirks, Traveller has been one of the most enduring of the big three (these being in the day AD&D, Traveller and RuneQuest) in that it has been through several rules changes over the years yet has finally come full circle and now uses pretty much the same system it started with all those years ago (with a few minor changes). Oh, and that survival roll quirk, guess what they kept it in the latest edition, for old times’ sake 😉
27 August — 8 September 2018
8 September 2018
From the Vaults
The America Club would like to invite you to our annual From the Vaults during the second Semester break. This is a weekend of gaming, lots of roleplaying and board gaming. A resurrection of games played at past events and a chance to play some games before exams set in. Lots of different types of games on offer. Turn up any time and jump into something. Lots of new and not so new game systems on offer.
Open to all.
19 October 2018
20 — 24 October 2018
22 October 2018
25 October — 12 November 2018
12 November 2018
Semester Two ends
Want to find out about more events, contact the Larp Officer for monthly Larps such as Vampire and Werewolf and campaign Larps.
Find out more at
Find out about AMERICA Club: http://theamericaclub.net.nz/ or https://www.facebook.com/groups/328139557280643/
Find out about Larps in your area: http://www.nzlarps.org/events/ (Includes Larps in Auckland, Hamilton, Wellington and Christchurch)
Find out about the roleplaying community on the forum: http://www.diatribe.co.nz
Want to help us out for the next edition, send in your material via email or contact me on fb.