What Does Minimum Unit Pricing Mean For Me?

Minimum Unit Pricing is one of the current big SNP policies. In fact, it’s the only policy that’s really being pushed just now apart from the Referendum Bill (due out on the 31st) and the creation of a new Forth Bridge, Scotland’s only foreseeable mega-project.

I still find myself very unconvinced by the policy however. I’m continually faced with good evidence on both sides of the debate, so this post is pretty much an effort to help me come down on one side or the other.

Let’s start with an example:

Of a Friday night, I can often be found in a friend’s flat. The plan normally involves splitting a crate of whatever Tesco has going cheap, watching TV and arguing about politics. Generally, the beverage of choice is Mr Tennent’s Finest Lager, which goes for £10 for 18 cans or 24 cans depending on the offer that’s on during that period. We usually get through 6 or 7 cans each (on top of a few drinks in the pub beforehand). I am happy to admit that this is not particularly healthy behaviour and probably had a negative effect on my short-term memory, weight, liver health and so on.

A standard size can of beer in Europe contains 500ml and Tennents is 4% alcohol by volume. That equates to roughly 2.3 units of alcohol per can. That’s a total of 41.4 units in an 18 can crate or 55.9 units for a 24 can crate.

Half an 18 can crate represents nearly a the whole of a man’s recommend maximum weekly alcohol intake (which is 21 units)

That’s pretty good value for money.

Price-wise, it works out at 24 pence per unit for 18 cans or 18 pence per unit for 24 cans.

Now, there are two prices being floated for minimum unit pricing: the SNP’s proposal of 40 pence per unit and an expert panel’s recommendation of 60 pence per unit. How much would the crate of 24 cans cost under these price points?

24 cans = 55.9 units x £0.40 = £22.36

24 cans = 55.9 units x £0.60 = £33.54

I have to be honest and say I’ll definitely be drinking less at either of those price points. While I’m scraping my way though a Masters degree, I certainly can’t afford to drink more then a few cans at that kind of price.

On the other hand, we might just try splitting something better instead: Tesco normally does a few good malts for £20. These include Laphroaig, Glenlivet and Jura.

According to various websites, a 700ml bottle of 40% spirits contains 34.5 units of alcohol. Bottle-size and ABV vary from whisky to whisky, but I’m happy to accept this as an average.

34.5 units x £0.40 = £13.80

34.5 units x £0.60 = £20.70

So, at the 40 pence price limit, a bottle of good whisky can actually be sold for much cheaper then it goes for now. The 60 pence price point also seems much more reasonable here, especially because I generally pay at least that for a bottle of whisky.

A more useful comparison is the price of a bottle of cheap vodka or whisky. Famous Grouse, Bells and Smirnoff can all be found for sale for around about £10 for 700ml. The 40 pence price point barely changes these, while the 60 pence price bracket changes it a lot. Given that the aim of this legislation is to prevent alcohol abuse and a £3 price rise seems a bit low to have a real effect, I wonder if the Government might aim a bit higher?

Overall, these sums reinforce the claim that this is targeted at those from a poor social background, young drinkers (who are more prone to binge drinking I believe) and those who take advantage of rock bottom prices. If you are prepared to pay £20 for a bottle of whisky or up-market beer, then you probably won’t notice anything (unless the booze companies force up these prices to avoid price association with ‘low end’ brands).

I am becoming more convinced that this will have a positive effect, and probably that desired by the Government, which is to reduce the number of alcohol related crimes, illnesses and deaths.

On the other hand, there are a lot of factors that I haven’t explored. These include the pricing effects on Alcopops, Fortified Wine, White Lightning ‘Cider’, alcohol sold in bars and the effects on the Pub trade in general.

I am much more convinced in favour of Minimum Unit Pricing then I was when I started writing this. However, the SNP proposed minimum of 40 pence per unit seems too low. If they want to see Scotland have the same results as the Scandinavian countries, then I would follow the expert recommended 60 pence per unit limit.

Rogue Trader Trophies

One of the more interesting ship components in Rogue Trader is the Trophy Room. This gives a few nice bonuses to your ship, but also allows you to display your past victories.

Here are some of my suggestions for the contents of the Trophy Room on The Tempest, the ship inhabited by my Rogue Trader dynasty.

Ceremonial Axe of the Omnissiah

Taking the the form of a large Poleaxe with the symbol of the Adaptus Mechanicus in the place of one of it’s two heads, this is a traditional symbol of a Tech-Priest’s authority. Unlike those used in the field by many Tech-Priests, this version is solely for ceremonial use, lacking the lighter construction material and power-field generator of it’s more functional counterparts. As such, it’s only potential use as a weapon is that of an over-sized bludgeon.

Consequently, it was deemed a fitting gift of appreciation following the quest to eradicate the Magno Crydom.

The machine spirits of the ship seem particularly attached to this device, and if it is removed from the Trophy Room, unexplainable power failures and faults occur around the Axe until such time as it’s replaced. On sole occasional it has been removed from the ship, the results were so catastrophic that the Axe was bound with chains attached to the wall of the Trophy Room lest it even happen again.

The Bedraggled Grox-Head

No-one knows where this traditional symbol of farm-life came from. Judging on it’s condition, it probably originated from a refuse planet.

Annoyingly, no-one can actually work out to remove it from the wall it’s attached to.

A bit of an embarrassment to the normally boastful Rogue Traders, it spends most of it’s time covered by a black velvet drape. If anyone inquires about it, oblique references are made to unspeakable horrors of the warp.

Mantle of the Dark Jester

In M40.887, the Tempest was boarded by a Troupe of the Eldar elite warriors known as the Harlequins. The servants of the so-called “Laughing God” spread through the ship, slaughtering it’s crew and spreading mirth.

They were eventually stopped through the actions of Lord-Captain Kobalt (a man known equally for his pig-headedness and stupidity), who donned a suit of near ruined power armour in an effort to deflect the deadly wires of the Harlequin’s Kiss. Unfortunately, the power armour had absolutely no effect. However when the ‘Kiss hit the plasma containment unit in the power-pack, the resulting explosion vaporised both Lord-Captain Kobalt and the troupe of Harlequins (as well as a considerable portion of the bridge).

This garishly painted and slightly scarred helmet was the only remain found by Kobalt’s second in command (who had been preparing the Murder Servitors to engage the Harlequins).

The Armour of Hun the Unkillable

This armour is a rare relic from the lifetime of the Emperor, being the second model of armour given to the Space Marine chapters.

This particular suit belonged to Hun the Unkillable, a legendary member of the White Scars. Before and during the Horus Heresy, Hun was a machine-like killer, cutting his way across battlefields with his twin power axes, felling Orks with a tenacity that was unrivalled.
The merits welded to his suit testify to his success, with legend telling that some of them were placed there by the hand of the Emperor (Indeed, some more religious crewmembers refuse to look upon the suit).

Hun’s rise within the ranks of Imperium was brought to a rather untimely end. During the Battle of Tyr’s Bastion, the White Scars were deployed in support of the 3rd Titan Battalion. Hun, more used to fighting without armoured support made the mistake of ignoring the closest Titan, to his cost.

The suit is approximately 3 centimetres thick, 2 meters across and 4 meters tall.

_______________________________________________________________

Of these, only the Amour of Hun the Unkillable and the Ceremonial Axe passed mutual agreement. The rest of the Trophy Room contents were created by other players and include the brain of a previous enemy, imprisoned in a chess-playing device, a cake-topper from the wedding that created the Heinstein-Fueller Dynasty, a miniature world and a Ork weapon.

These are all small things, with little in-game use, but they add a really nice touch to the world.

Review: Rogue Trader

RT_CoverRogue Trader, is the second core rule book in the Warhammer 40K Roleplay series. While it’s predecessor, the extremely successful Dark Heresy, followed the adventures of a group of Inquisitorial Acolytes, Rogue Trader returns to the roots of Warhammer 40K by putting you in the shows of a Rogue Trader and his crew as they ply the stars seeking fame and fortune.

It should be made clear that Rogue Trader is in no way a second edition of Dark Heresy. While there are a few mechanical changes, both games use the same system and characters from either game can be used in the other. Likewise, the fluff books (of which there are quite a lot now) are 100% compatible with both books, although I’m expecting Fantasy Flight Games to announce some books which are more focused on Rogue Trader in the near future.

Anyway, without further ado, we shall proceed to the review:

Art & Design

Fantasy Flight Games is well known for it’s award winning art-work. Dark Heresy and several of the expansion books have won well-deserved awards for it and it looks like Rogue Trader will be winning a few more pieces of silverware.

The overall design is identical to that of Dark Heresy, with the red and yellow colour scheme replaced with a blue, silver and metallic scheme instead. This gives a rather near feeling of continuity. The illustrations in a variety of styles and all fit the subject matter excellently, adding much needed pictures of Xenos and ships to already staggering visual palette of Dark Heresy. If you want an idea of how good the art is, then click on the image above to see a much larger version of it which was released as a wallpaper by FFG.

I was initially worried that there would be a degree of recycling in Rogue Trader, potentially with chunks of previous books being recycled. Thankfully, this is not the case, with the only non-original illustrations being wire-frame drawings of the weapons and a take on Leonardo Da Vinci’s Vitruvian Man.

As for the book it’s self, it’s roughly 400 pages long (the same as Dark Heresy) and hardback. Paperback copies of Dark Heresy were previously available but disappeared after FFG took over the licence, so it’s unlikely that a paperback version will be making an appearance. Print and binding quality are good, but unfortunately my book arrived with a slightly damaged spine (although the packaging was undamaged).

Mechanics

The mechanics of the game are pretty much unchanged from Dark Heresy. It’s still a d100 based system, you still have all the same stats, insanity, wounds and so on. All that can really be said about it is that it’s inspired by Call of Cthulhu and works very well.

The main changes come when you look at the skills. Dark Heresy had a lot of skills, in particular weapons skills. They took a ridiculous amount of time to get and you got quite large negative modifiers if you weren’t skilled with a weapon. Thankfully, there are now four universal weapons skills (Pistol, Basic, Heavy and Melee) and most of the classes start off with at least one of these.

The advancement tables have also been changed. While Dark Heresy presented you with several very similar and slightly pointless sets of skill and talent options when you got higher up the XP ladder, Rogue Trader doesn’t. Instead there are quite simple tables for each class which allow some customisation. There is also an emphasis on “Elite Advances”, which are skills which aren’t on your classes table but can be awards by the GM on conditions of his choosing, allowing massive customisation.

There are also two new sets of mechanics. Spaceship use and the Navigator powers. I have to admit, I don’t fully understand the way that Navigator powers work, although they are much more controlled then the Psyker/Astropath powers, which are notorious for their high chance of unleashing demons and so on when a party is mid-combat. They also have some nifty tricks, like being able to shift dimensions momentarily, kill people by opening their third eye and predict the future. The downside is that they also have to roll to navigate the ships successfully through the Warp.

On the subject of Ships, ship combat is a cross between character combat and Battlefleet Gothic, but it remains quite straight forward. Ships have their own ‘character sheet’ and a selection of traits to give it personality. They are also highly customisable, with a lot of different modules available for kitting out the ship.

Unfortunately there are only a few ship hull initially. It would seem likely that there will be a ship expansion release at some point. With any luck, this will include more and bigger ships.

Characters & Gear

The character classes in Rogue Trader are all new, but are also all similar to older classes. Most of them are much more refined and all the classes have a much clearer purpose and more combat utility. It’s suggested that at least one member of the party should take the role of the Rogue Trader, the captain of your ship. The other classes are Astropath (Psychic Communications Specialist), Arch-Militant (Ballastics Expert), Explorator (Engineer, Archaeologist and Explorer roled into one), Missionary (Flame-thrower wielding cleric), Navigator (Psychic Pilot), Seneschal (Indiana Jones style brains and brawn) and the Void-Master (A Merc by any other name).

All of these classes look interesting to play, and few fit traditional character tropes. The Missionary does have a Medical skill, but so do several other classes and there is a good deal of skill overlap, allowing player more freedom to do what they want. For further customisation, there is a large choice of background options, all of which add skills or stats without tying a character down. This origin path system is a bit limited if you follow it to the letter, but as the book says, it’s a case of guidelines rather then rules.

The gear is much improved on that in Dark Heresy. Stats have been buffed and most of the weapons have had their armour penetration increased. There are also a nice list of Xeno and other rare weapons – these were originally printed in some of the expansions, but they’ve also been buffed to do much more damage. Starting characters also get some very nice gear.

Fluff

Like most 40K spin-off material, Rogue Trader’s setting is some distance away from areas used by Games Workshop in their core material. Instead, it takes place in the Kronus Expanse, a poorly explored area adjacent to the sector which provided Dark Heresy with it’s setting. This area plays home to Orks, Eldar, various groups of Pirates, Kroot and all manner of heretical beings (stats are also provided for most of these). It is a gigantic area of space, with uncounted worlds and perils waiting for an adventurous Rogue Trader.

There are three chapters dedicated to providing material on the Imperium and the Expanse. It’s more then enough to help someone who has never played a Warhammer game to get started. There is also a sample adventure called “Into The Maw” and another two sample adventures, “Forsaken Bounty” and “Dark Frontier” available from FFG’s website.

Faults

So far, I’ve been nearly 100% positive about Rogue Trader. I’ll admit, I’m biased by the fact that I am in love with the system and the setting. There are a few faults with the game.

The first, and least critical is actually to do with the advertising. FFG proudly declared that the game would go on sale during Gencon. Unfortunately, it didn’t actually become available until mid-October and for a while FFG were rather cagey about when it would arrive. Thankfully, it got here eventually and was worth the wait.

There are a lot of small spelling errors in Rogue Trader. There are also a number of tables which have been incorrectly numbered and reference. This is particularly noticeable in Chapter 9, where there are nearly 40 tables, and the references are extremely inaccurate by the end of the chapter.

There are still a few too many similarities between classes. This was Dark Heresy’s main flaw, and while it has been drastically reduced, I can’t help feeling that there is at least one extraneous class in the form of the Void-Master.

Finally, while there are a selection of enemies ready for use, they’re are very few of them. My particular bugbear is that there are only one example each of Ork, Eldar and Kroot characters. No doubt there is an entire book of Xenos in the works, but it would have been nice to have been provided with some more examples.

Conclusion

Rogue Trader is almost certainly my best big name buy this year. It’s a stunning book that refines an already good system and I highly recommend it to anyone who is in the market for a straight-forward, pitch black space romp.

RPG Blog Carnival October ‘09 – Concluding the Moral Dilemmas

RPGBlogCarnivalLogoThanks to everyone who participated in this month’s carnival. There have been loads of great, thought provoking articles from around the blogosphere.

Ravyn from Exchange of Realities kicked off the month on high form with her article On the Moral Code of characters and then followed it up by discussing the Underlying Concepts & Moral Codes. A pair of very useful posts when it comes to creating complex characters or important NPCs.

Jade at the wonderfully-named Evil Machinations explores the ins-and-outs of Dancing with the Dark and letting your evil side out to play.

Satyre from Fame & Fortune draws on some medieval thinking, as well as a variety of other sources when he looks at the idea of the moral holiday in Morality Play.

Fitz at Moebius Adventures takes the prize for longest entry this month with his four part series on Moral Ambiguity in which he explores alternatives to the established alignment grids. I highly recommend Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.

Sea of Stars takes on the meaning and use of evil in a campaign, in Game Theory – Moral Dilemmas: Playing Evil.

At the Geek Life Project, Chuck makes an apparently rare appearance in the Carnival line-up to talk about one of his currently characters and what it’s like playing Lawful-Evil. Part of the answer is in the title; the Fun of Evil, but that doesn’t come close to summing up the humour in the article.

Mike from Campaign Mastery gives us some amazing advice for GMs and players with his wonderfully indepth article on The Moral Of The Story: The Morality and Ethics of playing an RPG.

A warm welcome to Colmarr at The Astral Sea. He’s recently entered the RPG blogging sphere, and I hope that he’s started as he means to continue. Morality: Behind the Scenes takes a look at group moral and the effects of it on the game.

Bob from The Dice Bag, who is partially responsible for this months carnival topic as a follow up to his carnival on religion, tackles the thorny issue of alignment, by asking Alignment: Do We Really Need It?

We have two articles from tenletter. The first, by peasantbutcher looks at some of the questions I asked in the initial post with some thoughts on morality, all brought together under the wonderful title What Goes Around Comes Around. Jatori also tackles my questions head-on, suggesting Maybe I Should Include This In My New Player Interview Kit.

My own entry happens to be rather late. In it I tell a couple of stories about things I regret doing in game and what my moral limits are in game, in an article On Going Too Far.

RPG blogger stalwart Stargazer’s World rounds off the month, looking at the questions I initially posed in the simply-titled Morality.

Some great and thought-provoking stuff. Of course, it was one of the last entries that left me with a particular lasting though, so, if I may quote Stargazer for a moment:

I’ve to admit it’s not easy writing about this topic because questions of morality are usually very personal. And sometimes a player character’s action reflect on the personality of the player.

So, thank you all for exposing a bit of your personality for all to see. Keep up the good blogging 🙂