About this blog

This is the official blog of Phoenix Roleplaying, a multi-genre simming site, created in August 2010.

Run by the players, we hope to achieve great things.

Where our journey takes us, who knows.

Monday, 27 June 2011

Krista Bäckman leaves Phoenix

Krista Bäckman, long-standing member and SL of WW3 has left Phoenix Roleplaying for personal reasons.

She'll be missed and hopefully we'll see her back one today.

Silent Hunter will take over the leadership of the currently suspended WW3.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Roleplaying tips series

I'm planning to do an irregular series on tips to improve your RPing experience here and elsewhere. If you have any of your own, please post in the comments.

Saturday, 18 June 2011

My rating system

For those of you who are looking at the reviews: this is the system I use – a modified version of the one used by Gallifrey Base in their rating threads for Doctor Who episodes.


·         10: Fantastic! The absolute pinnacle

·         9: They don't get much better than this!

·         8: It's certainly worthy of very high praise!

·         7: Well above average, but no masterpiece

·         6: Just a cut above average

·         5: Can't find a better example of average media

·         4: It's below average, but only just!

·         3: This one's bad but it's got some good in it, just there.

·         2: It's not the worst, that's something else. But...

·         1: I'd rather listen to a tape loop of leaf blower noise!

A very shiny book: Episode 2

The Good

Firstly, there's a refreshingly different style to this book to the other core rulebooks I've read (although admittedly, that's not that many). To give a sample:

Drugs & Poisons: Alcohol, drugs and poison are fought with a Resistance (double Vitality) roll, with difficulty and effects adjudicated by the GM. This could lead to a mild buzz, certain death, or you might start seeing little lights in front of your eyes before you collapse onto the cockpit floor in a puddle of your own drool.
Secondly, the system for character generation is simple and relatively easy to use, encouraging, strong vibrant characters rather than power-gaming (if you want a really powerful character, you'll need to give him a few complications. Having pre-made stats for our heroes as well as another group of people gives you a clear idea of what to aim at in the event that you wanted to create a highly chirpy mercenary who likes to paint her guns pink (hey, who doesn't?).

The background stuff is excellent, adding considerably to already existing canon material and provides valuable help to free-form games as well as games using this system. This especially applies to the ship material; a deck plan of a Firefly will be much appreciated.

The Bad

The style occasionally goes into the condescending; particularly in the GMing section, although this is aimed at a wide audience.

There are some avoidable typos, especially in the ship section.

I would have appreciated a Space Chinese - English dictionary as well as one going the other way, as well as a definite ending to the two "stories".

Finally, space combat could use a better description; it's not clear what positioning reference if any, you are supposed to use - operating in 3D is a nightmare for any GM and 2D isn't too realistic.


9/10. Definitely worth getting.

Two further notes

The Margaret Weis licence expired on 31 January 2011; no further official books to the ones already out will be released. In addition, it is getting increasingly hard to find this book for sale in Europe; be prepared to import if necessary.

PS: If anyone spots the Blake's Seven reference in my previous post, I will give them some reward in any game I run.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Interview with Amanda Bond

I’m here with Amanda Bond, GM of ‘The Elemental’, one of our Firefly sims and also player in a number of other sims on our site.

So, Amanda, tell me a little about yourself.

I started writing this in paragraph form and it sounded too much like I needed to end it with "And I like long walks on the beach" so without further ado, here are ten Fun Facts About me you didn't know:
-I grew up on a cattle ranch in Washington State
-I majored in theater and broadcasting and have worked in each of those on and off since graduating from Gonzaga University back in 2001. Currently I am working for an exhibit house coordinating booths for industry trade shows.
-I have been married for coming up on six years this July 2
-I have a Pembroke Welsh Corgi named River.
-I live in Las Vegas, Nevada with my father and my paternal grandmother, who my husband is the main care giver for.
-I've studied ballet since I was five and currently take ballet, cabaret (think like burlesque mixed with a bit of jazz dance), and yes pole dancing and strip tease (it's Vegas!)
-I turned 31 this past December.
-I used to be part of  demo team for White Wolf Games who published Vampire: The Masquerade.
-I am really awful with FPS and MMOs because with both I have a lack of focus and concentration needed for them. I end up wandering off in the middle of raids and things. Set me down with Dragon Age though and I am all set for the next twenty-four hours.
-I am a weekend Steam Punk person and have a variety of costumes for many occasions.

So, how did you get into Firefly?

The series or RP?  I saw previews for the movie in the theater and I said 'we should go to that' to my husband but when the movie came out for some reason we missed it. My husband was working at Best Buy when the movie came out on DVD so he bought the movie and brought it home. We watched it with a friend who started raving about the TV series. We bought the TV series on DVD and have since bought it for presents and loaned my set around the office.

A friend of mine started a Firefly table top game over AIM but as his law school took off he had to stop running it. I did a search for Firefly games online and that was how it all began.

Who is your favourite Firefly character?

I really had a hard time with this question, but I think my favorite character is Captain Malcolm Reynolds. He really honestly wants life to be simple, but he keeps making it more complicated because of his heroic and misguided impulses. I always enjoy rogues with hearts of gold and I definitely think Mal fits that description.

So, how did The Elemental come about?

The really neat thing about the Elemental was that the crew came together in game on the planet (Akers Bluff) in a really organic, natural way. The crew formed IC, then OOC we talked about a ship. The back story of the Elemental as a ship itself was one of those things that really came about as a team effort. The design of the ship led to this story of this old salvage ship that was once used by pirates but has been drifting in space. Naturally that led to a ghost story on board the ship. If I remember correctly Ash Plom was the driving force behind the schematics of the ship, we had a player who's no longer with us do some mock ups of this cool ship with claws, and then they let me go crazy with a back story based loosely on The Pardoner's Tale and a little bit of steam punk inspired tech.

The Pardoner’s Tale? That’s Chaucer, isn’t it?


Yes, that's one of Chaucer's more famous tales from the Canterbury Tales. As a note, it's been used before for inspiration - Exalted a game from White Wolf used the Pardoner's Tale as basis for their fiction for one of their cannon heroes called Swan and more famously JK Rowling used it as a basis for the Deathly Hallows.  My father was an Old English Major in school so I was reading Canterbury Tales by the time I was ten or twelve? I know I read it around the time I read the Count of Monte Cristo and that's when I was reading that.  He did not believe in Children's Literature per se. It is amazing how that sort of background sticks with you throughout life.

So, what are you reading at the moment?

Well this is a busy season for trade shows so I am reading a lot of manuals on the rules at various conventions and convention centers. I just finished setting up for E3 (Electronic Entertainment Expo) and am in the process of setting up for Infocomm. The most I get to read during this time of year is the occasional Dr Who  forum as fans go nuts with speculation and of course http://jotpuk.blogspot.com/ which is the official blog of the Journey of the Phoenix. 

The last book I read was Anthony Bourdain's Kitchen Confidential earlier this year. 

Very interesting. Finally, what are your RPing plans for the immediate future?

The Elemental is going to land on Santo and have an adventure worthy of being the lovechild of the movie The Hangover and Hearts of Gold Episode of Firefly.  I love playing the Naboo Ambassador Merisee aboard the West Star. After running through the Harry Potter experience at Universal Studios in Orlando I am debating another sim - have to see though if I have time for it. 

We hope to see these soon. Thank you for your time!



Monday, 13 June 2011

The girl's going to be fine (Review: 'Doctor Who' 32.7, "A Good Man Goes To War")

I don't know what was the bigger surprise: the true identity of River Song or the fact that the next episode is called "Let's Kill Hitler".


This is a story that like the TARDIS is simultaneously big and small. When the Doctor takes out a Cyberfleet (full kudos for using the ships from "The Invasion") in the pre-title sequence, you know that you're in for a large story. However, this multi-location epic involves a number of very intimate scenes with Team TARDIS, particularly between Rory and Amy.

Let's start with the multi-locational aspect: the jumping about collecting people bit in the first act is rather reminiscent of "The Pandorica Opens" and works just as well. Mind you, when the Sontaran came up, I ended up thinking of a certain recurring character in the Gallifrey Base Screencaps thread... They're going to have some fun with that...

When we get to Demon's Run, things get even more interesting. There's a lot of "soldiers at work" dialogue that gives what might be one-note characters a lot more foundation and makes you feel sorry for them. Lorna Bucket reminds me of "Lynda-with-a-y" from way back in "Bad Wolf" and touches the audience in a similar manner.

I wasn't too keen on the portrayal of the Clerics. The Moff is an atheist, I'm a thin Anglican. We're not going to agree on much in the religion field, but I honestly felt some of the stuff was overdoing it a little and could have been reined in.

Matt Smith seemed slightly off at times, but made up for it in others. I think I find myself comparing him with Tennant more than I really should and I know the Doctor was supposed to be subdued then, but still... Great stuff from Arthur Darvill as usual and Karen Gillan was also pretty good. Alex Kingston, who doesn't appear all that much, was also wonderful.

The plot was excellent and it was good to see the Silurians again - they're one of the better 'new' creatures of the Moffat era. The dialogue was excellent as usual and I see that the Moff still is doing the gay jokes. Plus I found the idea of the Doctor speaking 'baby' great; there's strong evidence that all babies speak in the same language.

Then that ending: a lot of things make sense as a result, including River Song's name. We still haven't found out who [spoiler] the Doctor in "The Impossible Astronaut", but I guess we'll find out at some point. It's a great point to end for the mid-season break.


9/10. You've got to be something truly special to get a 10 and this wasn't quite it, for a few reasons. Still, one of the best episodes of the season so far.

A very shiny book (Review: 'Serenity Roleplaying Game' by Jamie Chambers): Episode 1

Mr. Leighton Plom asked me to do a review of one of my recent acquisitions; the Serenity RPG rulebook from Margaret Weis Productions. Not being one to refuse a reasonable request like that, this is my review; which will be in multiple parts. This is part one.

What's inside

What do you get for your $35.99? Firstly, you get a shiny artistic hardback front cover with a nice picture of Serenity flying through space, while the back has pictures of the entire gang that aim to misbehave. You get 232 full-colour slightly bigger than A4 pages. The book is heavy enough to be used as a weapon; not that I'd personally advise that.

The book has lots of photos from the movie, although not the TV series due to licensing issues.

After a few pages of introduction, you get yourself character data for all the crew in case you wanted to use them in your games, with a picture and some background notes - later in the book, there is information for an alternative crew of a ship called Aces and Eights. The first three chapters cover character creation, which I'll talk about now.

After picking the appropriate level for your character (there are three), you need to give them Traits. You have a certain number of points, which you can spend on buying Minor or Major Assets (for example, Zoe Washburne is a "Fightin' Type Major Asset, which really helps her in combat). You can gain additional points by giving your character complications (Kaylee suffers from Combat Paralysis; as any Browncoat knows, she is not comfortable in kinetic situations). You need at least one of each and can have a maximum of five in each category.

Once you've chosen your assets, you need to "purchase" your attributes. The system uses various types of dice, but that's nothing you can't get around with by use of a dice rolling program. There are six attributes and you can go from d4 to d12 + d6; Wash has a d10 for Agility for example. Once these are done; you can figure out your Life Points score and Initiative dice.

Lastly, you buy skills, with a set number of skill points based on your level. There are basic categories you can get; once those have been maxed out, you can specialise - Mal Reynolds himself has the maximum d6 in Guns and goes up to a very good d12 in Pistols. Skills vary widely in this book and you can get further ones in the expansion volumes; some examples include parasailing, siege weapons and negotiation.

Once that's done, you can buy your gear, based on a certain value that the GM will set (or he/she could just do something arbitrary, like stick you all on a convict ship called London); goods include modular operating theatres, stun batons and ship repair, along with the more standard slug throwers.

Chapter 4 covers vehicle and spaceship rules, with stats for a number of ships, including Alliance Cruisers and cargo liners; there are even deck plans for a few of them, including Serenity (a slightly improved Firefly - for which stats also exist; Kaylee's presence has made the ship better in a couple of areas.

Chapter 5 and 6 are more orientated towards a potential GM; with the standard advice on plots etc, as well as a list of possible NPCs, including Mr. Universe and the Operative.

The book is rounded off by a large section of background information on the 'Verse, including key worlds and cultural stuff (such as Blue Sun). Then we get a slang section, including a short English-Space Chinese dictionary.

To be continued...

Friday, 10 June 2011

Trust in the rust (Review: 'Clear Skies 3')

Sequelitis is a common problem in franchises; where gags and concepts that were good once aren't necessary good a second time. Or for that matter, a third. It's rare to find a sequel that's better than the first installment; The Empire Strikes Back springs into mind. Finding a threequel that exceeds the quality of the first two is like finding hens' teeth.

Ladies and gentleman, we have a toothy hen.


For those of you who haven't seen the first two Clear Skies animations, I would strongly recommend you watch them before you watch this. You can find all three here. You won't regret it.

The Clear Skies series is set in the universe of EVE Online, the space-based MMORPG developed in Iceland and with a larger player population than that country. Probably a stronger economy too. You don't need any familiarity with the game to enjoy this - although there are plenty of insider jokes for those players. There are some key changes from the game universe, most notably the lack of "clones".

Using EVE for external shots and the Source SDK (the modding kit of the engine used for Half-Life 2 - before you ask, Garry's Mod has never been used in this) for interior scenes, the series follows the crew of the Minamatar Tempest class battleship Clear Skies, as they travel through New Eden, trying to make ends meet and keep their ship together. This is not an easy task.

In this third instalment, the mysterious Mr Smith asks them to give back a piece of technology he gave them in the previous story. Things aren't what they seem, though.


Ian Chisholm, who plays captain John Rourke and generally heads up a high-quality team of voice actors and other crew, has spent close to five years of his life on the trilogy. Most machinima are basically music videos or comedy shorts. This is a full-cast, action-packed drama that runs to a total time of 73 minutes, 23 minutes longer than the second movie, I believe - this might even be some sort of record. It's also extremely funny, which I'll get to.

The plot is excellent, with believable characters, villains with convincing motives and great performances by all involved - nearly all amateurs (with the exception of Francis Capra, a professional American actor with a rather impressive listing of guest roles in US drama). There are some wonderfully moving scenes, including self-sacrifice (and the aversion thereof). The ending is lovely and wraps everything up in a great manner.

The dialogue is up to the superb standards of the series. CS has created a number of catchphrases among its fans ("HOW MUCH?", "top-wingy bit", "Get that interdictor!") and this will add some more. Wait until it's "Hot drop o'clock". The humour is better than many sitcoms and will remind you of Red Dwarf or Firefly in its style, as well as its quality.

The visuals of this have been spruced up considerably, with help from CCP, EVE's developers. Ian and his crew had access to a motion capture program that allows for a fist fight to occur at the climax, something not previously possible. The HD, 1080p graphics may make the download a whopping two gigs, but it's worth every bit. The excellent set design remains and we get some wonderful new sets, including a Caldari fighter hangar that gets only a few shots, but would be worthy of at least a short in its own right. There are plenty of sight gags - including the explosive charge labelled "Plan B". I may well have missed some.

Then there are the spaceship battles. CS2 featured an 80-ship four minute gate fight. This tops that in nearly every regard; with a chase through a station that owes some resemblance to the "Death Star Trench" scene, but only some.

The sound is crisp all round and the incidental music, which includes things from Coldplay to Mike Oldfield and EVE music fits perfectly. The choice of "Fix You" for one battle scene is arguably just as good, if not better, as the use of "Far Above The Clouds" for the gate fight in Clear Skies 2.

Ian Chisholm has stated he will not be making another movie - he wants his life back and I understand that. I'm sure that many fans would want to carry on this story, with his blessing of course.

There are some minor flaws that could make me lower this if it were a professional production. However, since this is an amateur production, I see no reason to. Achieving something of high professional standard when you're largely self-taught it is worthy of the highest praise.

Congratulations to all involved. Mr Chisholm, even if you don't make a fourth one, you've gained immortality in this business.

10/10. It's a true Titan of machinima.

Castle comes to Channel 5

A while back, I reviewed an episode of Castle. In the review, I commented that Channel 5 should buy it.

Turns out, they already had and it starts airing at 9pm on Friday 17 June. So, if you're British and you've not seen this, now is your chance to check it out.

Monday, 6 June 2011

Seriously, two is better than one (Review: 'Doctor Who' 32.6, "The Almost People")

This was a bit of a bloodbath. Only one character didn't actually die this week. Mind you, he's done his fair share this season...

"The Almost People", the second part of what we're going to have to call a three-parter now, involves two Doctors. As any long-term fan knows, the multi-Doctor stories are generally considered among the best in the show (with the exception of "The Two Doctors"...)

So having Matt Smith play against himself with the wonders of modern camera technology was a rather wonderful thing. The two played off each other brilliantly, with great dialogue and a rather wonderful twist that busted through Amy's prejudice. There were also good homages to the past and the first appearance of Tom Baker's voice in the new era.

Plot was well... a bit so-so. It involved a lot of machinery stuff, the acid (where is that coming from anyway - I know you don't get acid from the ground...). Some of the emotional stuff may have been a bit overdone in my opinion, but it wasn't too bad. Rory's sudden decision to lock up the Originals seemed a bit out of character to me.

We also got one of the old tropes of doubles; the "I'm not the evil twin! She is!" thing. I've seen variants on this going back to an episode of Are You Afraid of the Dark with Tia and Tamera Mowry way back in the mid-1990s and this was an interesting new one. Mind you, why would the Flesh dissolve like it? Surely, it behaves just like other matter.

Then we had the ending. Now, that's a game-changer. How long has Amy been, well, in that state? I suppose we'll find out.

Good episode with some great themes and a reasonable pace, boosted by a wonderful ending.


Saturday, 4 June 2011

New front page

I've created a new Mark 2 Holding Page for Phoenix Roleplaying - this now has links to the blog and our temporary forum.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

A shiny new book

I've just got myself the Serenity RPG rulebook. It's great.

I'm going to be adding some sheets for my characters for Cortex-based campaigns and hopefully, others can add theirs too.
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