Improvised Radio Theatre - With Dice

Improvised Radio Theatre - With Dice! is a podcast by Roger Bell_West and Michael Cule, in which we pontificate on role-playing games.

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The Snake May Disagree 01 February 2015


This month, Roger and Mike look at single-protagonist stories, end campaigns, and pontificate on what should be in a new edition of an old game.

We mentioned Doc Savage, Five Man Band on TVTropes, The Librarians) and John Rogers' blog where he talks about show-running techniques, Amber RPG, Hamlet's Hit Points, The Laundry Files RPG, GURPS Banestorm, Roger's WWII game, Paranoia kickstarter, Feng Shui 2 kickstarter, Chill kickstarter, Dark Conspiracy 3rd edition, Tékumel, Gangbusters), Ringworld), The Price of Freedom, the recent Red Dawn remake, and Torg.

Michael was confused. ROCKET AGE uses a system called Vortex not Silhouette. (And having gone back and looked at it he has decided that won't do for Tékumel either.)

Music by Kevin MacLeod at

  1. Posted by Owen Smith at 01:44am on 05 February 2015

    I have played Amber. Rhodri was the GM, and players including Bob Dowling and John Dallman. Rhodri admits he had too many plots going on. I'm not sure the diceless mechanic really works. What doesn't work at all with typical 4 to 6 players is the auction for the statistics, it's far too easy to end up with one or two stats that no-one wants much and a fight for one of the others (this happened to us, we all wanted Int or whatever it was called and no-one wanted Warfare).

  2. Posted by RogerBW at 09:30am on 05 February 2015

    Which I suspect in turn means that you get some PCs who aren't pre-eminent in anything. Which I suppose is true to the Amber books (before they went all munchkin), but not much fun for those players.

    Even so, I still stand by the idea that you get a more interesting conflict out of challenging someone on his weak point so that he has to get smart to win than you do out of playing to his strength.

  3. Posted by Owen Smith at 01:38pm on 06 February 2015

    The trouble is that if the stat you all want comes up late in the auction, you can't ditch and decide to be pre-emininent in the one no-one wants, because the auction for that has already happened. And even if you could, you suddenly have to change your character concept during an auction so have a matter of seconds to think about it.

    As it happened, althought we all wanted Int I was the only one that wanted Pattern, so my pre-eminent thing became having Pattern and being a Mage, which no-one else was. The other two Int hounds wanted Trump and Power Words, I ended up third in Int having stuck to my points limit for it.

    The other problem with the stat Auction is what do you do when new players join? You can't re-run the auction. Rhodri simply limited them to no higher than the second rank purchase of each stat, which meant they could only have Chaos level Warfare. Personally I'd have let them have Warfare as pre-eminent, since all of the original PCs bought it down to Chaos.

  4. Posted by RogerBW at 03:22pm on 06 February 2015

    The original idea is that nobody has an equal rank to anyone else in anything, isn't it? So for any pair of PCs engaging in straight competition, the winner is known automatically.

    I'm sure there are better ways to do this. Multiple rounds of auctions, perhaps. Certainly modern game design would say that niche protection is important, and everybody should have one thing at which they're unambiguously better than any other PC.

  5. Posted by Owen Smith at 06:10pm on 07 February 2015

    If you bid for a stat then yes no PC will have the same value. But if you don't bid for a particular stat you get Amber level in it for 0 points, or you can buy it down to Chaos level for -10 points. Any number of PCs can have those values. We all bought Warfare down to Chaos level I think, because we needed the points for other things. Pattern which I bought for example is expensive. During the course of the campaign I bought it up to Advanced Pattern, which meant I could do a lot of things many of the characters in the books can't. Having a PC (Alan Glover's) that could create Trumps was a major power to have, I think she'd been taught by Dworkin if my memory is working.

    Still, it wasn't a very successful campaign. Having a PC from the Court of Chaos made for a very awkward PC group, and he was endlessly telling the opposition what our plans were. We should simply have either killed him or kicked him out, but PC dynamics make that difficult.

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