Tuesday, 12 March 2019

2019 Update


I realise I'm not great at updating my blog, as I usually just spill my mind out onto Twitter and Facebook, and assume people who care are taking notice. With the idea that maybe that's not quite the case, here's my current update.
  • Above is the cover design for Curtain Call, as it stands. I've not made too much progress since December last year, largely because it occurred to me to jump onto projects that I'm doing in conjunction with other people. But, still, this is my only properly fleshed out storytelling game, and I'm always happy to get good feedback about it so - to that end - I'm happy to send people a playtest version. 
  • Cthulhu Adventus and Halfway, both for Stygian Fox, are still both in the pipeline. I've started tackling the former, whilst ideas for the latter stir in the back of my mind (it'll be a two book affair with, in a style not dissimilar to Stephen King's IT, the players playing first as kids and then as adults - potentially this also means that the kids' book will be one of those 80s/90s nostalgia trips that everyone seems to be doing).
  • Writing - I've signed up to a mentoring programme that means I'm being encouraged to write 500 words of fiction every day. Which isn't quite working, because I'm also researching (or just reading) gaming material on a regular basis, and real life requires me to spend quality time with my kids every so often. But I have got two short stories on the go at the moment, one that's a no-fantasy story about a lonely girl who is drinking at home on a rainy night, and the other which is a sci-fi / cyberpunk / transhuman / Black Mirror affair that I'm really enjoying. If you bug me I may release copies into the world, as and when they're finished.
  • A fantasy game has been lingering in my head for ages, based on a love of old Fighting Fantasy books and, frankly, any dungeon crawler game where the adventurers run into the guards serving the evil overlord. There seem to be a bunch of games that allow you to play 'the bad guys' but I'd like to write this one game - sooner rather than later - as a love letter to the games and gamebooks of my youth, a darkly humourous game that allows you to play somewhat a band of dysfunctional guards who always seem to possess a random item that will help the adventurers get through that one room further into the dungeon.
  • Largely, much of my current inspiration is coming from the Plot Points podcast, which has pointed me toward investigating specific fantasy games. Very much worth checking out, just for the sheer variety of game covered.


Thanks for reading.

Friday, 2 November 2018

Early November 2018 update...

Just a quick one.

The Werewolfing is done for a year. We've raised £250.07 - thanks everyone involved! The fundraiser page is still open, if you want to throw money at it:

https://fundraise.cancerresearchuk.org/page/simons-giving-page-215

The next few projects I'm working on are as follows:
  • Curtain Call is a personal project. Already pretty much written, but just needs editing, words shuffled around, graphic design done. It's a game about death, or rather the journey from life into death wherein, as the events of a weird night or journey unfold, one character in the fiction realises that they might be dead or dying, and all the other people around them are figments of their imagination, supernatural entities or the spirits of their dead companions. A small project I need to get out out of my system.
  • Cthulhu Adventus, for Stygian Fox - I need to finish editing the Mythos section, originally written ten years or so ago! Still, a small project, I suspect.
  • Halfway, also for Stygian Fox - something that is for modern era Call of Cthulhu but that will have some similarities with Curtain Call I suspect. Set in the world of dreams, but not as you've previously seen it, it's likely to get surreal, dark and disturbing.
Anyhow, that's it for now. I've got a week of next week, but I'll be in Ireland celebrating, amongst other things, my wedding anniversary. I've got some time off in December but, really, I'd love to have Curtain Call done by that and, with any luck, the Cthulhu Adventus bits will be done by the end of the year and I'll have made a start on Halfway. No idea when I'll fit in little writing projects around it, but I suspect I'll have to take a few breaks from these other projects just to get an injection of new ideas.

Here's a picture of the cover (so far) for Curtain Call. 


Friday, 5 October 2018

EVENT: GAME ON, WEREWOLVES - 27th October 2018



GAME ON, WERWEWOLVES


October. As the nights noticeably encroach on the daylight hours, and Halloween draws ever closer, we turn our attention to the monsters that lurk in the shadows, and of man’s ignorance of them or the bold attempts to fight back against them. 

It’s perhaps a simplistic metaphor for the fight against cancer, and yet there’s something admirable in taking on that darkness that could, conceivably, affect any one of us in our life-time, either directly or indirectly. In the past year alone I’ve seen two friends diagnosed with cancer and have begun treatment. Undoubtedly many of you will have similar experiences.  

In my own small way I’m trying to make a difference by raising money for Stand Up To Cancer, by organising an event based around a game that I’ve been playing for close to 15 years. Indeed, one of the afore mentioned friends, Kate, has been playing the same game with me for much of that time. Werewolf is a social deduction game where-in the players, usually a group of between six and twenty people, are all secretly assigned roles. Most of them will be humble Villagers, ordinary humans like you or me. But hidden amongst them will be Werewolves, who prey on their human neighbours, night by night. If you’re lucky you might also find some other roles at your table, such as the Seer, who might be able to detect who the Werewolves are before being killed, or the Hunter, who will take someone with him or her when killed.  

The game takes place over a number of rounds that represent, alternatively, Night and Day. During the Night everyone closes their eyes, specific roles being asked to open their eyes and select targets, whilst during the Day the village awakens to see who has been killed during the moonlit hours, and are required to deduce who amongst them is responsible for any deaths. It is only by successfully lynching a Werewolf (or a lucky shot by a Hunter) that the villagers can hope to eradicate the Werewolf menace. Should ever the village be composed of a number of Werewolves equal to or greater than the remaining humans, then they take over the village and satisfy their hunger on the few surviving members.  

On Saturday 27th October, partway between a full-moon and Halloween, we will be holding our Werewolf event from midday and into the evening, kindly hosted by The Thirsty Dragon venue in Greenwich (https://thirstydragon.co.uk– 166 Trafalgar Rd, London SE10 9TZ).There will be several different copies of Werewolf available for people to play, as well as similar games based on similar mechanics but based on different themes (members of the mafia trying to pick off the civilian they hide amongst, cultist trying to kill off party goers, alien horrors disguising themselves as researchers and soldiers, agents of a dystopian government infiltrating rebellious freedom fighters), but the big game that will be running will be the ‘Legacy’ version of Ultimate Werewolf, where each game will have a knock on effect on each of the Legacy games that succeeds it. This game accommodates from 8 to 15 players – I myself will be moderating, and am not included in those numbers – so arrive early to sign up and avoid disappointment. 

I’m asking that everyone who signs up for a game on the day pays a small fee to join each game (£1 for a game, or £5 for the Legacy game), but people are free to donate on the funding page whenever we want. Hopefully this page will be updated with pictures through the event, for anyone unable to make it in person. 

Thanks for reading!  

Simon Brake 

Facebook details for the Event can be found at:
https://www.facebook.com/events/876560915874844/

For the curious, I recommend this particularly good podcast about the game: 


Tuesday, 14 August 2018

EVENT: Necrinomicon Charity Stream, 25th-26th August 2017


EVENT: 24 hour livestream event of Call of Cthulhu gaming and associated activities

CAUSE: Raising money for blood cancer charity, Leukaemia Care
DATE: Saturday/Sunday 25th-26th August 2018 
LOCATION: twitch.tv/necronomicondiscord

DETAILS: In 1928, in his story Call of Cthulhu, author HP Lovecraft described Cthulhu, or rather a statue carved into its likeness, as "A monster of vaguely anthropoid outline, but with an octopus-like head whose face was a mass of feelers, a scaly, rubbery-looking body, prodigious claws on hind and fore feet, and long, narrow wings behind."

90 years on and, even if you've played the tabletop RPG based on Call of Cthulhu and other stories by HP Lovecraft, the winged octopus headed alien god 'Cthulhu' might not be the obvious face of a charity fund raising event. But here we are. The Necroconomicon community on the Discord website, dedicated to bringing Call of Cthulhu gamers together in a friendly environment, are looking for writers, artists, podcasters and You Tube hosts - essentially anyone who has contributed to the game - to get in touch if they think they might be able to help with the 24 hour event.

The aim of the charity stream is to raise money for Leukaemia Care, as well as awareness of the disease.

Further details can be found on the Blasphemous Tomes website.

Wednesday, 1 August 2018

Undertow

I figured a blog post is long overdue.
 
For one thing it has been close to a year since my last post. I should probably update this more often - on perhaps a monthly or weekly basis. 


For another thing, my Facebook and Twitter banners have, for a long time, advertised that I have a story called Undertow, but it may not have been obvious where, why, or what it's about (it's actually a scenario for a game, but I'll address that shortly). 


Finally, a recent successful Kickstarter campaign has announced a scenario called Undertow for the game Delta Green which, I'd like to clarify now, is not the scenario I wrote. I wrote Undertow a year or so ago, for my friend Stephanie McAlea at Stygian Fox, and the book Fear's Sharp Little Needles, a collection of really short scenarios for the horror RPG Call of Cthulhu, that can be run at short notice with minimal preparation. The book was successfully Kickstarted a while back and should, fingers crossed, be seeing the light of day (or flickering candle) soon.

 
I won't say too much about the scenario here (spoilers!), but the hook is simple enough: a reclusive author publishes a novel after many years of absence from the scene, a book that displays knowledge of the Cthulhu Mythos, and the investigators track him down to his home somewhere along the American coast. In many ways the book is a meditation on loneliness, depression and suicide. It is my hope that anyone that recognises that sense of isolation also recognises that countless people feel the same thing and pull through, and that if they can't find a way to escape the embrace of the undertow under their own steam it really helps to find someone who they can either talk to or spend time with without feeling harassed and judged. The scenario is a work of fiction, and no-one reading or playing the game is responsible for anything so evil or dangerous as to consider themselves without hope.




I know very little about Delta Green: Undertow, save what appeared in an update for their own Kickstarter: "First a dog and its owner vanished at the Tachee State Park beach, followed by four people combing the woods during the search that followed. What local authorities don’t know is that Native Americans claim the park is home to the Shadow. They say it is a place where the spirits of killers and criminals live on after death. Delta Green must team with an unlikely partner to continue the search." 


The game Delta Green is a spin off of the game Call of Cthulhu, so naturally there is likely to be some overlap in the theme of dark alien (incomprehensible) forces pitted against the characters controlled by the players. The title Undertow also lends itself to the themes of water (and thus it's no surprise that both stories contain beaches), and arguably shadows fall into a similar category, a shadow behind the item light is being shone upon not miles away from the dark depths beneath the surface of the water. 


A weird point of coincidence is that, in my scenario, one man and his dog also have an important part to play. That's just the zeitgeist though - as limitless as the wellspring of creativity may be, the streams and rivers they produce tend to run the same grooves and collect the same ideas along the way - arguably there is only a finite number of things that inspire us, and we're all reaching into the same pool to pull our ideas out of.


I'll be honest - I'm kind of intrigued to see whether there are other similarities.


Anyhow, my Undertow should be out in the wild relatively shortly. Delta Green: Undertow will take a while longer to see the light of day. I suspect my scenario won't be quite as expertly realised as the Delta Green one (those guys have been writing excellent material for years!) but I hope it is well received. If you're reading this Blog post off the back of reading/playing my scenario, please let me know what you thought of it, good or bad.


Thanks!



Footnote: the metaphor of the undertow was in a lot of the songs I listened to whilst I wrote my scenario.  If you can find me on Spotify, you might just find the playlist. :-)



I am friend to the undertow

I take you in, I don't let go
And now I have you
~ Undertow, Suzanne Vega
















Tuesday, 3 October 2017


EVENT: An afternoon of playing Werewolf, and a variety of other hidden role games
CAUSE: Raising money for homeless charity, St. Mungo's
DATE: November 11th 2017 (12pm onwards) 
LOCATION: A pub in Tooting, south London (The Antelope) 


DETAILS: An afternoon (technically from around lunch and into the evening) to not only raise a bit of money for charity, but also to play games of social deduction and bluffing, such as Werewolf, where amongst the players pretending to be villagers living in an idyllic village, there are those players who are secretly chosen to be werewolves, picking off the innocent villagers one by one. We hope to have several games going at once so that, as players get eliminated from one game they can join another one that is just about to start, rather than sit in their first game and be unable to start another game.

And it won't just be werewolves plaguing villages. We've also got alien parasites inhabiting isolated scientists and soldiers, cultists picking off investigators in a house during an unnatural storm, agents of dystopian governments infiltrating rebellious cells, outlaws and renegades trying to take down the sheriff in a wild west frontier town. And possibly other hidden role games on top.

At the end of the night we had planned to have a live show, where ten players at a time would bring the village to life in front of the rest of us, as an audience - but due to a small number of confirmed numbers it was looking as if the performers might out-number the audience. Instead we'll end the night on as big a game of Werewolf as we can manage, to end the night on a band (or rather, a howl)!


It's not long after Halloween, so feel free to treat it as a second opportunity to dress up a bit. Admittedly, most of you will be innocent villagers, but any decorations you have post-Halloween, or bloody wound special effects you can use to make your deaths looks somewhat more authentic are welcome.

Possibly there will be a small auction and cakes to buy, to further pry charity money from your hands. :-)

The event was originally set up as a Private event on Facebook, but as I was unable to find a way to convert it to a Public event I've had to create a new one (at the time of writing 17 people have confirmed they'll be coming). 

WHAT IS WEREWOLF? Werewolf, to use it's simplest name, is a spin-off (or 'reskin') of an older game called Mafia, wherein everyone around a table is given a random playing card which determines which side they are on and, through a process of turns during which people are instructed to close their eyes and some are asked to open their eyes and select victims, the bad guys slowly whittle down the good guys, whilst the good guys have a chance to accuse and lynch the bad guys, with the chance they'll kill one of their own. It's a game of bluff and deduction, but also a game of adopting a fictional role and acting the part of a villager in an archetypal isolated old village - it can be played as seriously or as silly as the participants wish. Games are given extra depth and complexity by having additional good guy/bad guy characters with special abilities they can choose to use.

I'll have several versions of the game, including the popular Ultimate Werewolf, the beautifully illustrated Wolfed (see the art work above), the more abstractly illustrated Werewolves of Miller's Hollow, the Werewolves of Miller's Hollow spin-off The Village (which gives most characters a home from which to earn a living plus, thematically, some poor villagers without a home), plus others. I may have even have created a pack of my own.

OTHER GAMES? I will have a few other games with me but, at the very least, you'll be able to play Salem 1692, wherein you seek witches in the real world town (featuring real world historical salem townsfolk), Are You The Cultist? which transplants the action to an isolated mansion during a storm in the 1920s, pitting cultists against decent upstanding investigators, Stay Away! which rips off the film The Thing but with a nice Cthulhuesque twist, The Resistance, wherein agents of the rebellion fight to find the government spies in their midsts whilst they perform missions, Leaders of Euphoria, a similar dystopian future where two rival factions equipped with amusing tools try to take out the hidden enemy leaders and Bang! The Dice Game, wherein the Sheriff of a western town must pick off the hidden Outlaws and Renegades, with the aid of his unknown Deputies.

Other games may be available, and people are encouraged to bring their own. 

ELABORATE BACKSTORY: A while back, after seeing Jon Gracey's Werewolf Live, I was reminded of the Werewolf sessions I used to play with friends years ago, including a session with Dave Gorman that - due to a number of factors - never made it into his book of games. Off the back of Jon's event myself and another Werewolf player of old put our heads together and decided to arrange an event to raise a bit of money.

Friday, 7 July 2017

A Dark Room...



Welcome, to one of my sporadic blog posts, that I fire off about once every six months...




There was a full moon in the sky the night I died. I didn’t realise, because I was in a dark room, but as my spirit made its way home there it was, looking down at me, like a face glowering out of the darkness. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

John Robertson is a man who, like many men, does a stage show. Unlike many men (or, perhaps I should say, like many of the more unsavoury men), he invites you in a dark room, and demands many decisions of you, and should you make the wrong one, you’re dead.

It didn’t begin auspiciously. My phone battery had died not long after reaching the venue, and having failed to convince anyone to come along to the venue, was now unable to be contactable. Worse still, I was to enter the dark with no means of contacting the world outside. The future was looking bleak already.

It was made somewhat less bleak by the drinking of two pints.

We descended into the darkness. It’s a venue I’ve been to many times before, illuminated by a red neon sign, but now it was dark. Only the bar at the back of the room was lit, whilst jazz music played. The front row already claimed by people who were clearly fans, I opted for a seat in the second row.  Seated before the projections of words meant to calm the soul, to put the audience at ease. “The Dark Room,” it said, reassuring us that we were where we’d planned to be. “You are about to die,” it declared, reminding us of why we had come.

The audience filtered in slowly, many of the people clearly veterans of finding themselves in a dark room, greeting each other. We sat, in the darkness, old friends and total strangers, the same two messages flashing across the screen in front of us, music lulling us into a false sense of security. A man darted around, setting things up. A wizard of sorts, who eventually disappeared behind his curtain to do important things. Only once the room descended into a darker sort of darkness did the man reappear. A different sort of wizard, perhaps, for he was one who wore lights about the shoulders and shone a torch upon his face. And, indeed, with his long white hair, his mock English accent and a certain gleam in his eye he seemed to be channelling Gandalf himself, albeit a younger Gandalf who might’ve been a jock at university, and had never quite given up the wearing of impressive pads about the shoulders. He entered the Room with a villainous laugh, and strode around the room around as he explained how things worked. Which was good. I’ve never been in a Darkened Room with such pronounced initial letters, and so was eager to understand the rules. I’d descended into the darkness with a strategy, to see how people tackled the Dark Room, because I’d been warned by sage voices before hand. “It’s not horror,” those sage voices had told me, “but there will be many dead.” And indeed, there were, by the end of it.

If I were to evaluate my strategy, in retrospect, I would say that there were three fundamental flaws. Firstly, and you may have anticipated this one, was that I was sitting in the second row and, should participants be chosen from the audience rather than be volunteer (as, indeed, I had in the Werewolf Live show a week before*) then I was in a bad position.

Secondly, I had chosen to sit in an aisle seat.

Thirdly, and perhaps my biggest single mistake, was wearing a white shirt in a dark room.

The man’s face, suddenly very close to me and illuminated by torch-light, grinned down at me. “You,” it said, between grins, “What is your name?” And I answered. But, alas, my strategy having already fallen apart, I was unable to correctly answer. “Oh no,” said the illuminated face, suddenly not grinning. For there is only one correct answer to this question. And only now, having experienced The Dark Room, can I answer – truthfully and honestly – what my name is.

It will not do for me to reveal that answer to the unititated.

“You awake to find yourself in a dark room,” the face announced. I was pressed for an answer, a selection of one of four possible answers which were shown on the screen.  Four options: SLEEP, FIND LIGHT SWITCH, ABANDON HOPE or GO NORTH. This was familiar ground, at least. I’d seen these options on the website. “Go North” I declared, with some authority.

I was henceforth rebuked for my folly, the man’s voice echoed by those around us, no doubt familiar with fools who seek to venture north in the darkness. And so my brief adventure began.

And brief it was, though memorable. It ended shortly after I’d clicked my heels together three times, and clearly enunciated “There’s no place like Leningrad,” at which point Stalin appeared unto me. And you know what happens when Stalin appears to you?

You’re dead. And you will be told this several times. And everyone will tell you this.

I was the first to die. I was by no means the last.

And so other ‘brave adventurers’ (mostly people who cowered away from attention, but also at least one very enthusiastic girl), all with much the same name, ventured forth, awakening anew in a dark room. And so, as a room, we sought to exhaust the possible pathways out of the darkness, in the slim hope that one of us might walk away with £1,000. And though no-one did, some people unlocked Plot Points along the way. One person in the audience earned a plastic duck for interjecting with a well timed funny joke (whilst another was merely taunted with one, for a substandard joke). And finally many of those who walked the path in the darkness earned a ‘gift’ from the table of wondrous things. Such things as a box that may, or may not, have contained a cat, such things as a rare computer game, such things as a ‘flamboyant potato’ (again, you might just have to venture into The Dark Room to discover what this is. Or, I don’t know, do a Google search. It’s probably there). I didn’t win a gift, alas, but given that one of the gifts was a front headlight from a car that had been discovered lying in a street, I’m quite glad I didn’t have a trophy to take home with me.

And so, having all of us died (for, with the final democracy round the entire audience had all died collectively) we ascended once more from the dark, blinking in the daylight of a relatively light summer’s evening. Slightly less sure of ourselves. But maybe, just maybe, considering returning to that Dark Room, some day, wherever it appears.



The Dark Room will be materialising, very soon, at the Soho Theatre. Check it out HERE!





* That’s another blog, one I’ve not yet got around to writing. Sorry Ghost Master.