d6 opportunities from the thieves’ union

Does a guild of thieves sound too trite for your campaign?  In Barnsleigh, the thieves have unionised.

1. Closed shop policy

Adna Fairfield is keen for all thieves in the town to be members of the union.  As far as she knows she’s got most of them, but she needs to check.  Break into the town constabulary and steal their records.

2. Tax makes lax

The Mayor has recently been criticised by town councillors and religious demagogues, so she’s keen to make some strong political decisions.  Bluff your way into the Princes’ ball and convince the Mayor to raise tax on home security measures.

3. Tall storeys

Some of the union’s best workers have been out of business for months following falls from upper windows.  Find a way to influence building regulations to lower overheads.

4. Sickness benefit

Being part of a union means protected sickness pay.  Break into the home of Suren Parnell & leave her a valuable painting.

5. Fragile economics

If you can’t control demand, you can control supply.  Find eight more vases like the three we already have: destroy them.

6. Picket line

Since the thieves unionised, fewer and fewer people are shopping in the market.  Fortify the picket line to insist that no theft takes place in the square.

d6 opportunities from the thieves’ union

Coming soon: CON’S PRIAL

As I’ve spoken of not long ago, I’ve recently taken to writing a fair amount of games. What’s more, last week was objectively my most successful week for games design – I became a finalist in the Game Chef design competition and
I was paid for my writing for the first time, specifically to write an adventure module for the Patron edition of Grant Howitt’s CULT OF OSIRIS.

From this, I’ve learned two things.

ONE – I’m quite handy at coming up with interesting premises and compelling concepts; both Contempt for the Ogre Poet and Parisien Tempest have been applauded for having good stories.

TWO – I’m bad at writing rules. Now, Contempt was concepted and written over nine days, but still I gave all these rules for “here’s how to do shit” and only in the penultimate paragraph said “here’s what the shit does”. I need to front-load my key details more. Especially the whole “how to win” bit.


I’ve done a little research on “how to write rules” and found this on Numberless to be the only decent one that really addresses my needs. (If anyone has some great guides, please recommend them.)

It’s odd, because as a teacher I give instructions every day. I’m usually pretty good at explaining things in person. Maybe I just need to imagine I’m actually talking the rules through as I write.


I’m going to combine three games I’ve been variously working on for a few months into one package. The package (ebook) will be called CON’S PRIAL, and is made up from the following games. Watch this space!

1. CONJURORS! It’s the turn of the nineteenth century and you scrabble to create the greatest magic show the world has seen.

2. CONSTITUENTS OF R’LYEH. The MP for Innsmouth and Grimwater has been dismissed; you stand in the by-election and need to win without succumbing to the whims of the Elder Gods. Cthulhu plus politics.

3. CONTEMPT FOR THE OGRE-POET. There is no book in the fiefdom, not since the ogre-poet came. You have three days to complete a strategy that will prevent the inhabitants of Easthaven from being eaten.

Each game is designed for a pack of cards and two or more friends. I’m really excited to put them all together.

Coming soon: CON’S PRIAL

Constituents of R’lyeh

It all started when Grant Howitt shared some of his slides on games design.

Of course, I had to pick the silliest two-word combination I could, and so I came up with a concept of politics plus Cthulhu. The strapline “Azathoth has won the by-election” was soon to follow.

Thus, I present to you CONSTITUENTS OF R’LYEH.

The gameplay is largely about interacting with public opinion, and in the normal way of public opinion it is constantly malleable. To be fair, the elements of the Cthulhu mythos are largely set-dressing aside from the STRENGTH OF MIND stat – in a future, deeper version I’d like to more thoroughly implement madness and the elder gods.

I’ve been toying with the concept of diceless systems since I attended the latest London Playing and Playtesting meetup, though the fact that politics is saturated with decisions meant that I was loathe to introduce the overt randomnity of dice-rolling into it. I hope to test this system at the next event, but please have a look and feel free to run the system yourself.

Constituents of R’lyeh

Note to AV

As far as I am able, I am going to try to avoid indulging in the petty rhetoric and name-calling that has typified each side of the referendum publicity campaigns.*

This week, there will be a referendum as to whether the current system through which we elect our representatives should be changed. I am not going to tell you how to vote; I only implore you that you do.

It appears that all public discussion of the AV debate has focused on the immediate effects of a change, and on the change to the election of a Member of Parliament. It has equally been argued that candidates will have to “work harder for your vote” and conversely that it won’t actually affect rotten boroughs**. I cannot hope to add a helpful voice to that discourse.

My desire is that you consider the implications of a change.

If AV becomes our system of election, more (elect) power will go to smaller parties. This would mean a less decisive election victory, and possibly a succession of hung parliaments or else coalition governments.

While this may be more directly representative of the electorate (albeit not proportional), it will lead to weaker governments less able to conceive and promote focused policies – consider these very campaigns and that our PM and deputy are arguing for opposite sides, irrespective of any Cabinet Collective Responsibility. We would be draining power from the body we elect to hold it. We do not need a weak and cosy coalition. We need a strong government, and a strong opposition.

Coalition brings with it broken promises – compromise between disparate parties must be made; else there’d be no need for multiple parties. I do not wish to be ruled by a government consisting primarily of second or third choices (by definition, precisely who we do not wish to lead), who have had to abandon key policies to form a weak and shaky alliance.

On Thursday the Fifth of May, I shall be voting. I ask you to too.

* I cannot judge if I was wholly successful. That is for you to decide.

** I mean, safe seats. Sorry.

Note to AV

Why is Liam Burns wrong?

It’s not often that I actually get angry.*

I became aware of Liam Burns’ comments on university earlier today, thanks to Ed West’s blog at The Telegraph. Specifically, this statement:

The reality is you need that bit of paper to get into better jobs with greater earning potential and influence. So we want as many people to get one as possible, at the expense of quality if necessary.

This is why he makes me angry.

I understand that the number of students going to university (and the number of universities) has expanded rapidly over my lifetime – in reality, mostly during my secondary education, if I’m honest. However, aside from the fact that this means more people have degrees, it doesn’t mean that those “pieces of paper” equal a greater ability to interact in the current workplace. A degree is not a qualification like an A Level – it is a certificate that demonstrates further and higher education at a university.

Burns seems to lump all students and their degrees together – not only causing hyperinflation of the value of a degree, but also reducing the value of the greatest to the lowest common denominator. I worked hard to get into a good university, and to get a good degree from it. The value of a degree is not inherent, it is always dependent on location and class. There is a reason why Oxbridge and Harvard are spoken highly of.

Burns also commented that universities today are vehicles for social change. Arguably, yes they are – indeed, the success of this is a matter of great debate. Nevertheless, Burns is confusing purpose with possibility. I buy a spade so that I might dig up my garden.** The spade itself is designed to dig – irrespective of what it is used to dig up. I’d buy a different spade to shovel shit.

The purpose of university education will always be to learn.

* See Rule Three.

** I haven’t got a dog, you see. Come to think of it, neither do I have a garden.

Why is Liam Burns wrong?

UK Budget 2011

So another year rolls round and we wait for George Osbourne to hold his old red briefcase in the air so we can photograph his familiar hairstyle and the unfamiliar London sun.

But that’s not what I’m going to write about. I’m going to write about my budget.

I’m not famous for handling money efficiently,* but somehow I survived last year living (on my own) off two hundred pounds expendable income a month.** My one pound sixty weekly shop has become legendary. Even that allowed an impulse purchase of a “luxury item” (see rule three).

Somehow I always seem to be able to spend to (sometimes beyond) my means. Which has become a problem now that they are greater.

I’ve imposed a budget on myself, but being bad at budgeting, instead these are a succession of rules. Here they are.

Rule One – Pay only in cash

This is sometimes avoided, such as when I buy big purchases on credit; similarly to the machine that goes bing! these then enter other budgetary pigeon-holes, much like incapacity benefit to slash unemployment figures.

Essentially though, it involves my day to day spending being paid entirely in cash. I set an arbitrary weekly limit, and withdraw half on Sunday and half on Thursday. This gets me through food shopping, travel and luxuries (see rule three).

Plus, you can see cash going down, and you’ll subconsciously keep track.

Rule Two – Impulse Purchases

I’m an impulsive man. I am famous for my impulse purchases.* Once, my friend and I bought a lot of Go-Gos for no reason whatsoever.

I believe that abstinence is doomed to fail, so rather than denying myself impulse purchases or luxury items (see rule three), instead these are limited.

Generally, my Impulse Purchase Of The Day is a Creme Egg, at least at the moment.

Rule Three – Luxury

See above.

* Fame will be the topic for a future blog.

** Most went on alcohol, generally social events, then on food.

UK Budget 2011

Notional Voting Day

I have just crossed my road, walked shortly down the opposite street and into a local primary school with a piece of paper with my name and address on it, and the address of the school that I walked into. I arrived to an otherwise empty room with two upright cross-booth desks with desks of varying heights, and two oddly happy people sitting behind a very small desk, on very small chairs. The closest to the door was a rather tall gentleman with smart glasses who commented that he felt not unlike Gulliver of Swift’s tale.

I handed over my card, and the two cross-referenced the location of my name on the list, my name was found, and a mark was made beside it. I do not recall seeing any other marks on the same page. The lady (further from the door, and closer to the Ballot Box) then removed a large polling sheet, and handed it to me.

I passed across to the strange cross-booth, and read the instructions on the wall, then all of the parties on the polling sheet, before using the very thick pencil to make a cross on the sheet. The sheet was then folded in half, and I moved back to the desk, was instructed to fold the sheet yet further and push it into the box. This done, I bid the two good day, and left.

I was back within my house within two minutes.

Okay, so not everybody is lucky enough to have a polling station quite so close to their house, but it’s not going to be very far. I’m still shocked by the levels of political apathy within the general populace. Much has been said of the apathy of ‘young voters,’ but a cursory glance over Tweets and Facebook status updates today suggests that the opposite is true. The young are becoming increasingly interested in the political system, either at the basic level of just voting, or to more fuller involvement with parties or pressure groups.

At any rate, you should all take a few minutes from your day today to go and vote. It’s for the European Parliament, and as such quite possibly more important than Westminster. It’s a proportional representation system, so the number of votes is directly equivalent to the number of seats won.

Just go and do it.

RT @lostinnorfolk 69 years ago today our grandfathers did it with rifles on a beach in Dunkirk. Go out today & do it with a stubby pencil in a village hall.

Notional Voting Day