I don't know if there's a way to backdate entries or import them from Dreamscape. If that's the case, I'll leave this one up and link to it from the new site.
My friend Justin, on the other hand, loves that stuff. This last summer, he kicked off his Gen Con with a six hour old school Gamma World game that started off with random character creation. It's his thing. Which is why I'm glad to see he's now sharing it online. "A Field Guide To Doomsday" is his repository of critters "For Mutant Futures, Gamma Worlds, and Assorted Post-Apocalyptic Wastelands." It's delightful. If it's your thing, you really should check it out.
Tuesday night, I ran my planned BoL playtest for Owlcon. As planned, I used pre-generated PCs out of the back and one of the short canned adventures.
System-wise, the game ran really well. There were a few moments of looking things up, but I was able to fit just about everything the players needed to know to play the game on two pages. I need to get a better grasp on setting difficulties, but things generally ran quite smoothly. A couple of players commented on how well the game reinforces the genre, like the use of the term "Lifeblood" instead of Hit Points.
As expected, the adventure from the book came nowhere near to filling the time I'll be allotted at the con. This is fine, as it let us brainstorm additional encounters along with a completely different plot to plug them into. It's far from ready to run, but I'm happy with the shape it's taking. At this point, I'm trying to decide whether or not to "crowdsource" it a bit on RPGnet to try and tune it up to maximum awesomeness.
I am, as I'm sure anyone bothering to read this already knows, a big geek. RPGs, fantasy, SF, and comics are my primary poisons. I am one of those few who was lucky enough to marry someone who is in all major respects a kindred spirit. While her passions are for music and dance, she loves comics and RPGs.
Well, most RPGs. You see, she absolutely, positively, and without reservation, HATES Dungeons & Dragons and virtually any RPG that takes place in an era with an abundance of magic swords and a commensurate lack of flush toilets. Her tastes in fiction mirror this: she'll happily read fantasy, just as long as the word "urban" precedes it (and I don't mean "Ill-Met In Lankhmar."
Of course, I seem to play a lot of D&D or D&D-ish stuff. More than I think I did even when it was the only game in town. I'm certainly enjoying it more. And because I enjoy it, and because hope never dies in my optimistic little heart, I still occasionally push D&D-ish stuff her way, hoping to -- I don't really know -- I guess maybe show her it doesn't completely suck. She dutifully looks it over, then turns her nose up and we go about our business.
Today, I put something more than D&D-ish in front of her. It was very much a D&D thing, namely the new Dungeons & Dragons comic from IDW. I picked it up at lunch, largely due to the fact that it's written by "Leverage" creator John Rogers, an admitted gamer himself, who wrote some stuff for 4e during the Hollywood writers' strike a few years ago. It is, in my opinion, just about as perfect a specimen of an RPG tie-in product that you could ask for. Such a product, in my opinion, needs to give the reader (whether a gamer or an interested bystander) a glimpse of the ideal sort of stories you can tell with the game. But the reader shouldn't hear the figurative dice clattering offstage. In this respect Rogers' gifts for pacing and dialog shine through beautifully. The comic is full of action and wit, two things that make an easy sell to new readers.
So, having enjoyed it thoroughly over lunch, I decided to put it to the real test, plopping it down in front of The Missus, who was waiting for me to cook dinner. As I busied myself heating up the creamy tomato bisque and making grilled pimiento cheese on rye sandwiches, I heard a giggle. Then more. Then full on laughter. At the end, she pronounced it "Delightful," and instructed me to make sure she gets to see the next issue.
Now, if I can just figure out a way to sell her on trying the game out again.
After we determined the brief battle hadn't raised any alarms, we set about our next major objective: rescuing Gundigoot from the Tollhouse before his scheduled execution the next day. Interrogating a convenient toad (actually, the familiar of the late lieutenant), we got a decent idea of the lay of the land and planned to hit the place at night. We knew Temerek, the head guy at the Tollhouse was paranoid and loved traps, so a straight up frontal assault was out of the question. Scouting around, Shayd (our rogue) noticed some disturbed earth in the back of the Tollhouse compound. While Farrukh examined it, a strange creature popped its head out of the ground - an osquip! Thinking quickly, Farrukh befriended first one such critter and then the entire colony, allowing us safe passage through their tunnels, which eventually broke into a larger, man-made excavation.
From our conversation with the Toad, we knew that Temerek had a bolt-hole under the Tollhouse, and this looked to be the place. Avoiding a series of cunning traps, we discovered a pair of secret (from the other side) doors, as well as a ladder leading up to a trap door. Using goggles of x-ray vision, we determined the trap door led to Temerek's room. He was engaged in conversation with a rather large snake with an infernal look about it. Waiting for the serpent to depart, we quickly put together a plan of action. Shayd (standing on the shoulders of Alecto, our sorcerer) would throw open the trap door. Farrukh (standing on Einar's) would immediately cast Wood Warp on the only door in the room, trapping Temerek within. The plan went off with only one hitch: before we could get to grips with the villain, he produced a small white sphere and smashed it on the floor, filling the room with a dense white fog. When it cleared, he was nowhere to be found.
After a cursory search, we decided to go forward with our plan to rescue Gundigoot. Stopping at the first secret door, we checked with the goggles and saw jail cells on the other side. As we came through, an alarm was raised and it was time for initiative again. Initially, we found ourselves fighting our way out of a narrow corridor, which allowed Einar to hold the front rank and get in lots of killin'. The first opponent was an eight foot tall humanoid with the face of a mandrill. He may have been big, but he went down hard with another crit from E's greataxe. Another of his kind challenged us and fell, and then human thugs behind them. One fled (having seen his mate go down with one hit), shouting "Get the fire beast!"
As we pressed down the corridor, we found Gundigoot in one of the cells. Of course, by this point, we'd already strung ourselves out a bit and the prospect of a "fire beast" meant we were going to stick around and clean this place out rather than flee out the tunnels.
As it turned out, the fire beast was a pyrolisk, a creature that would have been much more problematic if not for Farrukh's ability to cast Produce Water at will. As it was, between Einar hitting it a few times and Farrukh hitting and biting it, the thing went down before it could do us much harm.
And that's where we left off. Next week, I run Barbarians of Lemuria, but I even I'm far more looking forward to the next session in this game.
Some of this (OK, a lot of this) is due to personal conceit. I don't like using canned adventures at conventions. It feels lazy and less creative. I like making up stuff. I like building worlds and creating characters to populate them. I don't mind starting with someone else's foundations, but I want the thing to have my own stamp on it by the time it gets to the table.
Fortunately, my Tuesday group is good for this sort of thing. They're happy to interrupt a playtest so we can talk through the things that aren't working. If they improvise something, I'll run with it and see where it goes.
Here's today's inspirational bit. I don't play MMORPGs, but I love highlight trailers. I can't comment on how good a game "Age of Conan" is, but I'll be damned if it doesn't look beautiful.
The current plan is to start off with one of the adventures out of the book, with a few personal modifications. I expect it'll run a bit short and we can workshop things to flesh out the action a bit. Once I've got that, I think I'll crowdsource it a bit here and on RPGnet to see if we can squeeze the maximum amount of awesome into it.
More on this as it develops. In the meantime, some inspirational artwork:
Turns out, there's some good stuff in there. Not all of it, and lord knows I'll have to change and flesh out a ton of stuff to actually make a work of coherent fiction out of it, but some good ideas.
At any rate, that got me looking at Champions stuff, and realizing that I've really never sat down and figured out HERO System 6th Edition, like I always said I was going to do, and the next thing I knew, I'd fired up Hero Designer, sat down with an NPC out of one of the world books, and started entering stats.
Turns out the things I had some trouble wrapping my brain around are pretty simple once you go through the entire process. Now, I'm curious how it'll play. I imagine not that differently from 4th or 5th edition, really, but it does make me want to pull out the "Bucket O'd6s" and give it a shot.
Of course, I'm still swamped at work and will be for another three or four weeks and NaNoWriMo starts November 1, and then there's the holidays, so I probably wouldn't actually get to do anything with it until January and by then I'll be finalizing my Owlcon preparations, so the fact is, this is probably a dead end or at least a false diversion.
C'est la vie.
I can totally make this happen. I just need players.
Our Tuesday group likes to have two games in rotation in order to prevent GM burnout. For the past few months, that's been sort of spotty. We ended our massive 3.5 Forgotten Realms campaign and started a new Pathfinder game ("Dawn of the Temple of Elemental Evil"), but we really hadn't gotten a second campaign going.
Last night, we kicked off "The Coming Thing," a pulp western campaign set in the 1890s using White Wolf's Adventure rules. My character is Dr. Lysander Algernon McCoy, a skeevy psychic who is one lab accident away from full-blown supervillainy. The rest of the group includes a Watcher (from the Buffyverse) with very powerful healing abilities, Stephen Austin - "The Six Thousand Guinea Man," and Raban and El Feo - a pair of very different gunslingers.
For all my gaming, I've actually had very few opportunities to play any version of the Storyteller System, so I'm looking forward to seeing where this goes.
Generally, I like for one of my games to be somewhat out of the ordinary. Either an obscure game or one that's underrepresented at the con. Last year, that was Lucha Libre Hero. In past years, I ran Marvel Super-Heroes and Mazes & Minotaurs. This year, I've decided to run Barbarians of Lemuria. I've got an old RuneQuest adventure I last ran about twenty years ago that can easily be adapted for more traditional Swords & Sorcery, and I've really wanted to give BoL a try for a while, so here's my chance.
(Also, since I typically playtest my con rounds with the Tuesday Night Crew, it might give me a chance to sell them on it as well. Bonus!)
For my second game, I'm heading straight for my comfort zone. 2010 has been a great year for superhero games, and I intend to take advantage of this by running DC Adventures. I considered Icons, and could certainly run my published adventure, but I'm really digging DCA. The adventure is going to be set in the animated universe, some point after the end of "Justice League Unlimited." So far, all I have is a title and a short blurb, but I'm fairly sure it'll write itself.
So, now I've got the basic ideas. All that's left is to flesh them out. And write up characters. I wonder when the DCA character books are due out?
But one of the D&D 4e games I'm in makes heavy use of not only minis but Master Maze dungeon terrain. Our game environment is as close to WISIWYG as the DM can make it and it's pretty damned impressive.
With the prospect of running a DC Adventures game though, I realized I could indulge the visual element a good deal more fully. After all, I've got several hundred appropriate HeroClix I accumulated over years of playing the game, and any game I run set in the DC Universe is certainly going to incorporate as many existing characters as possible. So, if I'm already committed to using minis for the game, why not take the next step and go whole-hog on scenery as well?
Which brought me to Fat Dragon Games' "Capital City" set. For those not in the know, Fat Dragon produces papercraft scenery scaled for gaming. Most of their stuff is aimed at Dungeon Adventures, but "Capital City" provides modern/urban structures suitable for superheroic adventures. Each of their products consists of a set of PDFs that can be printed out an assembled. Better still, most of the structures can be customized by turning various layers in the PDF on or off. For instance, the rooftops can display 1" squares (D&D scale), 1.5" squares (HeroClix scale) or 1" hexes (Champions/HERO System scale). Windows can be turned on or off, doors can be altered, etc, even bird dropping stains can be added for optional realism.
The set also comes with objects such as a dumpster, streetlights, roof access doors, a water tower, and even undamaged and damaged versions of a taxi.
Of course, the big question for me was how much effort it would be to put together and how would it look? I'm not a particularly "crafty" person. I've never painted minis or built models, but scissors, X-acto knives, and glue seemed within my skill set. So, I sat down with some card stock and my color printer, and went to work, and here's the first result:
The instructions are straightforward and clear. Fat Dragon provides a beginner's guide to paper modeling along with the specific directions for the set, which was extremely valuable. The hardest part by far was the cutting, requiring an X-acto knife and one of those cool "healing" cutting mats. The folding and gluing went pretty easy. It's a first effort, and there's a lot I could do to make it look better up close, but it's still pretty impressive.
The only downside for this particular structure is storage. Because I didn't want to get too advanced on a first project, I didn't use their optional instructions for building a collapsible building. The next one will be.
And the endless letter column debates. They were like internet flamewars played out over the course of months. And over things just as pointless as the ones you find on message boards today.
In fact, I think what I really need to do with this is as little thinking about the game system as possible. Because every time I do, I start considering house rules and ways that later editions of the game improved upon this or that, and the next thing I know, I'm discarding things and throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
(The one real bummer in all of this is that my wife who, despite being a gamer of unquestioned credentials, hates D&D and fantasy gaming in general is rather disappointed because she really wants me to run DC Adventures. I've promised on a bag of dice that when the hero and villain supplements come out, I will run a proper DCA campaign, come Hell or high water.)
Put simply, Microlite 20 is D&D 3.x stripped down to the barest essentials. Three stats, a few skills, some simple rules for spellcasting and combat and your out the door. It's quite possible to put all the pertinent rules on a single page. But because it's derived from d20, stripping down published material to fit that paradigm is a snap, so there's tons of monsters and adventures just waiting to be plundered. But it gives a very definite old-school vibe, as minis and detailed tactical maps really don't have a place.
Best of all, it's so bare bones that it's easy to customize without breaking the system. And lordamercy, have people ever customized it. There's tons of fan-produced material out on the web covering everything imaginable. So much stuff that I'd despair of ever finding it, given my ability to overlook the obvious.
Fortunately, my old gaming chum Randall (we played together back in the 80s) runs Retro Roleplaying: The Blog. A big proponent of Microlite 20, he saved everyone the trouble of hunting down these supplements and put them all in one convenient, if huge, place.
The Microlite RPG Collection is over 600 pages of free material, from the core rules, through options and expansions, to complete Microlite games and settings, ranging from sword and sorcery to post-apocalypse, from cowboys to spies, and possibly the best ever Star Trek adaptation I've ever seen (and I own them all, including the one Heritage Models put out in the 70s). Seriously, the notion of the color of your shirt indicating your character class is absolutely brilliant. Sure, there's some stuff that I'll never use and probably never look at, but there are some rare gems worth exploring, and if nothing else, it offers something less cumbersome than d20 and showcases some truly outstanding creativity from our fellow gamers.
You should really check it out.
(Yes, of course I printed out some of my custom-made counters. It wouldn't be a proper Theron game without props.)
(I also might have made custom GM screen. Because I like doing things like that.)
Anyway, I started the heroes off, straitjacketed, on a conveyor belt moving them towards various implements of Certain Doom. The Joker cackled madly and Harley controlled the machinery. Black Canary blasted an industrial drill press with her Canary Cry while Nightwing slipped his bonds using acrobatics. Black Canary slipped free and went after the mooks while Nightwing initially tried to shut down the machines, then decided swinging up to The Joker's vantage point (a control platform above the factory floor) and taking the fight to the villain.
Harley tried flinging a bomb at Canary, who barely dodged the blast and retaliated with the Canary Cry, bringing the control room down around the Joker's girlfriend. While she finished Harley off, Nightwing staggered the Joker, who stumbled back and over the railing -- on to the conveyor belt, which led to the loading dock and freedom!
WIthout hesitation, Nightwing leaped after him, blocking his path. The Joker tried to tag the former Robin with his Joy Buzzer, but failed, allowing Black Canary a final well-struck sonic attack to bring him down once and for all.
The entire fight took about forty five minutes, including explanation of the basics and stopping to look up a few things. The boy had a good time, and more importantly, my wife was impressed with the way things played out. Since her previous interactions with M&M were a lot less positive, I'm really pleased that she's on board with the newest version of the rules.
I think next week, I'll let Wonder Woman and Captain Marvel try and take on Solomon Grundy. Or maybe Black Adam.
Even so, I used SOME discretion. But it meant I could pick up a few things that won't be in stores for a month or so and put the money directly in the pockets of those who produce the products. Since a lot of those folks are friends of mine, I consider this a good policy. If it means I buy some things from HERO Games because I like the HERO guys, even if I'm pretty well burned out on their game system, so be it. It also gave me the freedom to grab things I hadn't heard about before the con that caught my eye.
Here's the entire list of my purchases, with a few notes:
DC Adventures: I've already pre-ordered it and have the PDF, but this way I got a signed copy. It's lovely. I love it. The hero and villain books will contain over 600 characters. Awesome!
Champions Universe and Champions Powers: Neither of these is immediately applicable to my gaming. But the UNTIL Superpowers Database was one of the best supplements for 5th Edition and CP is the new version of that for 6th. I bought CU because I like Steve and Darren and I enjoy reading campaign backgrounds.
Basic Action Superheroes! Ultimate Edition: I already own this in PDF, but I wanted a print copy. BASH! is looking to become one of my go-to superhero systems, so having an extra copy to loan out is a Good Thing.
Legends of Anglerre: I'm still more sold on the FATE system in theory than in practice. But there's something to be said for a big and meaty (400 page) done-in-one fantasy game book, especially one flavored with that particularly mad and wonkers style of fantasy particular to the British in the late 70s and early 80s. Also, I love Cubicle 7 (the publishers) to death. Maybe it's their posh English accents. Or maybe it's because they've gone from nowhere to become "The Good Mongoose." Or maybe it's because they publish ICONS, which gives me a tenuous connection to them. Whatever it is, I like them and it's a cool book.
A Song of Ice and Fire Roleplaying Pocket Edition and A Song of Ice and Fire Campaign Guide: I love George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire. I already had the SIFRP book, but the Pocket Edition is more portable and has all the errata incorporated. Just in case, you know, I actually ever somehow manage to convince someone to play it with me. Hope springs eternal, even if winter is coming.
Dark Sun Campaign Setting, Dark Sun Creature Catalog, and Tomb of Horrors: My requisite WoTC purchases. Because I'm enough of a D&Der that I feel honor-bound to buy something from them every year. I did notice a couple of sort of disturbing things though: First, Wizards was only selling these three books (and t-shirts) at Gen Con; if you wanted something else, they had a list of retailers in the Exhibitors' Hall who were selling them. Also, the Dark Sun stuff was limited to 100 copies of each per day. I had no trouble getting mine and only had to wait about five minutes to do so. Given some other rumors that were floating around about relative sales of Pathfinder vs 4e products, and I wonder if the great 4th Edition experiment is ever going to pay off.
I also bought two of the t-shirts, one for me and one for my son. Because we're dorky like that.
The Smallville RPG: The buzz on this one really took off in the weeks before Gen Con. It's a very different sort of RPG, one aimed at handling stories where interpersonal relationships are the most important factors. So, instead of being rated for Strength or Brains or whatever, characters have stats like Truth, Justice, Love, etc. It's a fascinating idea, one that I think would work extremely well for a play by post game. I also got a copy of the Leverage Quick Start for picking it up. It uses the same system, but with more conventional stats and a clever plot editing mechanism to reflect the "Caper" style of the series. Between the two, they show some remarkable innovation coming from a publisher I'd previously dismissed as just grinding out potentially lucrative licensed games.
Progenitor: This is another one of Greg Stolze's amazing settings for Wild Talents, a game that seems built specifically to handle the maddest of the mad, beautiful ideas of superhero gaming. It's massive (400 pages) and just the little bits I've read are incredible. It's one of those things I don't necessarily want to play, but I want to devour so I can absorb its knowledge and become a better gamer/writer for it.
All for One, Regime Diabolique: Another reason I love Cubicle 7 so damned much. The elevator pitch version of this is "Musketeers vs the Devil." Either that sells you or it doesn't, but it sold me in a big way. So much so that I simply picked it up without even opening the cover. It was only after I started looking through it at the hotel that I realized it uses the Ubiquity System (the same as Hollow Earth Expedition), so I already basically know how to play it. I knew nothing of the game before the show, so it counts as my big surprise of the convention. If I don't end up running it at Owlcon next year, I'll be surprised.
PS-238 #42: My comic store never orders enough copies of this comic and I was missing the issue. Aaron Williams autographed it for me.
Knights of the Dinner Table: If my comic store never orders enough PS-238, I'm convinced they order no copies at all of KoDT. I caught up on six months worth of missing issues, the new "Bag Wars" collection, and went ahead and subscribed for the next six months.
Wil Wheaton, Games Matter - A Sampler of Writing About Games, For Gen Con Indy 2010: Just what it says on the label, a chapbook of game anecdotes and stories from the Ur-Geek's blog. Good stuff, and it was a pleasure meeting him.
So, that's it. I seriously considered picking up Fantasy Flight's Battles of Westeros set for Battlelore (along with the House Lannister expansion), but that would have made packing to go home virtually impossible. Also, no one will play it with me and it would just become another expensive unplayed board game on my shelf.