06 December 2021
A Dragonmeet update
It was at the last Dragonmeet (back in 2019) that the exciting news came of an RPG adaptation of the popular Rivers of London series by Ben Aaronovitch would be adapted into a tabletop RPG by Chaosium, but given a pandemic and global delays, there was a quiet curiosity as to when it would reach our shelves. Thankfully, this Dragonmeet offered us a quick update, with a seminar panel featuring line editor Lynn Hardy, Lead Game Designer Paul Fricker, and author himself, Ben Aaronovitch.
For the unfamiliar, Rivers of London is a series focussing on Peter Grant, a member of the metropolitan police turned magicians apprentice, skills that see him solving magical crimes and instances across London. The series features eight books presently, with additional novellas and short stories available too. The panel tell the story of both wanting the same thing – Hardy becoming a fan of the book series and wanting to turn them into a possible RPG, and so approaching Aaronovitch at a book signing, following which Aaronovitch had to excitedly convince his agent of the merit of having lovely A4 bound book as a result. Ultimately, Aaronovitch came across as much a fan of Chaosium as they were of him, talking excitedly about the Call of Cthulhu books and editions he now has as a result.
The panel began explaining that they have tried to remove the barrier to entry as much as possible, altering the terminology, with consideration that the frequent Latin can be confusing at best for gamers, but an alienate non gamers. This continued to explain that an attempt was made with this RPG to appeal both to fans of RPG's, but also fans of the Rivers of London series who may not have played RPGs before, as it offers a familiar foundation. This would then sit upon a system altered from the Call of Cthulhu system ("Percentages make sense!" Aaronovitch joked), with alterations to both simplify and to embed the Rivers of London canon within the terminology and actions. For example, a character sheet will include five characteristics, nine core skills, and a few combat skills, with hit points removed in place of levels of wounds instead. Gone too is the Sanity, but now replaced with moments of impairment that make you more likely to fumble. This was explained as taking into account main character Peters moments of shock, where he is unable to act, but his abilities aren't reduced per say – it's just now, the threshold roll to fumble is reduced. That's before even you consider the consequence for magic overuse that's confirmed to be included.
Challenges were presented by creatures such as the Demimon, who are much more whimsical and so would not be beholden to a spell list – as human characters will likely be, needing to know specific spells in order to know later, higher ones – and instead have luck pool, that they can use to alter the world. Indeed, particularly powerful ones can even offer these as a boon.
Giving more detail on the book itself, a Rogues Gallery was described, offering denizens of the world, and written in Peters voice, discussion on ways to play online, how to use the stories for inspiration taken through as a solo adventure, as well as a discussion on how to base a campaign outside of London. A chapter will include how to run games set in new locations, and ways this might be possible – for example, opening up new branches in places such as America, where Chaosium is based. Described as wanting to see "X-files meets Supernatural", it offers a different cultural use of magic, as well as unique ways you might approach it – Monster Hunting Vlog, anyone?
The biggest question on everyone's lips was when, and Hardy explained that though they wouldn't commit to a date just yet – but promised it would be next year.