theron: My Dice Are Probably Older Than You (Default)
Two months ago, I hadn't planned on doing much shopping at Gen Con this time around. I hadn't been able to save up for it like I did last year, but I'd come to term with that. Also, a number of things I might have been waiting to purchase there (like The Dresden Files) were available earlier this year via pre-order, so I already either had them or had them on order. Then, at the end of June, my boss took me aside and informed me I was getting an enormous bonus for work I did back at the first of the year. It amounted to an entire paycheck's worth of wages. At this point, shopping was most definitely ON.

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.
theron: My Dice Are Probably Older Than You (Default)
Man, what a weekend!

The flights up were pretty awful.  Just as we pulled away from the gate in Houston, the pilot came on and announced they'd been issued a "ground hold" from Chicago.  They DID take the plane back to the gate, so it wasn't one of those nightmare scenarios, but we were on the ground for an extra hour before we ever got going.

Since we had almost two hours of layover ahead of us in Chicago, this wasn't too awful a prospect, just boring.  However, when we landed at Midway, we had to wait another half hour on the taxiway waiting for our gate to clear.  This left us with a very short window to traverse the airport and grab some food.  It was rather nerve-wracking.

So, of course, our flight from Midway to Indy turned out to be delayed for about forty five minutes.

Fortunately, our roommates had gotten in earlier and had already gotten the hotel sorted, so we just had to turn up and get our stuff. Last year, the guys I was with were staying way on the outskirts of Indy and we had to rent a car.  This year, we were across the street at the Marriott and could get to the Convention Center without even going outside.  Which was a good thing on Wednesday, as Indiana was in the grips of a major heatwave.  The temps were in the high nineties and with the massive humidity, the heat index was around 106, only three less than Houstopolis.  It was like we'd never left home.

We picked up our swag bags and gawked at the MASSIVE Will-Call line.  Last year, on Wednesday, the Will-Call was about a five minute wait.  This year, it was nearly an hour.  I don't know if it was due to more folks pre-registering, or more folks choosing Will-Call instead of having their badges shipped to them, or more folks showing up on Wednesday, but whatever it was, it made me glad to have paid a few bucks extra to get our badges FedEx'ed to us early.

After a couple of our other Houston friends got their badges, we met a friend of ours from RPGnet (where he goes by Metallian) for dinner at Scotty's Brew Pub.  Like a lot of local businesses, Scotty's goes in for Gen Con in a major way.  There were gaming posters all over the place, "Galaxy Quest" was playing on the TVs, and they had a special Gen Con menu inspired by Castles & Crusades.  The food was good as was the beer (or so I'm told: I didn't drink on Wednesday, so as to try to avoid potential migraine triggers).  I ran into a couple more friends, and one of the Houston bunch became the first person to defeat Scotty's 24 oz burger challenge.  H-Town represent!

Thursday morning, I was like a kid at Xmas.  I woke up at 5 AM (which, according to my body clock was 4 AM) and didn't get back to sleep.  The next five hours were an agony of anticipation, waiting for the Exhibitors' Hall to open.  My roomie J had a six-hour 2nd Edition Gamma World game first thing, Jane (my wife) took his wife (Miss A) with us for her first exposure to Geek Prom.  The ladies very kindly humored me as I checked a few things off my "must buy" list.  First and foremost was DC Adventures, from Green Ronin.  Yes, I've already got a copy on pre-order AND I bought the cheap PDF and bound it out.  But to have a copy in hand at the convention?  I imagine that's how Gary wanted us to experience Gen Con.  Or something.  Mostly, I knew if I got one in Indy, I could get Steve Kenson to sign it for me, so I happily grabbed one.

I spent the next couple of hours shopping, exploring, and taking it all in.  The ladies went off to a Middle Eastern Dance class (One of the really cool things about Gen Con is that they know they draw families and they know that not everyone attending is a gamer, so they put together an entire non-gaming tracks with dance classes and craft seminars and the like).  For Jane, who's a very good dancer who studies with some very well-regarded teachers, it was a nice chance to work on her fundamentals and meet some new dancers.  For Miss A, it was her first crack at something she's wanted to try for a while.  After, we grabbed some lunch, did some more shopping, and then returned to our room to chill out for a while.

This set the pattern for the next few days, where we'd hit the dealers' area in the morning, and relax in the afternoon until dinner time.  Compared to last year's schedule, where I was pretty much in the Convention Center (or immediate vicinity) from 9 AM to 1 AM, this was a welcome change.  Jane had another class in the evening and dinner was PF Chang's for just the two of us.

Friday was more of the same, with a bit less buying things a lot more running into folks I know "From the Internetz."  We stood in line so I could meet Wil Wheaton, who was entirely cool.  I told him that a blog post he made some years ago about running "Orc and Pie" for his son got me off my butt about gaming with my son, which he thought was awesome.  This segued into talking about our "Dads and Kids" 4e game, which was further endorsed.  In fact, I found myself talking about that game quite a bit over the weekend, and a number of people were really excited by it.

Dinner on Friday was Indian with Gareth Skarka's clan, along with Jason L Blair and TS Luikart, another couple of Imaginary Internetz Friends.  Here, I discovered two things: 1) Indianapolis-level spicy is not Texas-level spicy, even with Indian food; 2) If you're looking for a quiet dinner at Gen Con and don't want to wait for a table, Indian is very definitely the way to go.  Even if it wasn't as hot as I'd wanted, the food was still quite good and the company even more so.

(Amusing dinner conversation moment:  Gareth was telling about how his teenaged daughter M had played D&D for the first time ever. She'd already been a bit taken aback already to learn that her "hermit" work-at-home dad is actually a Pretty Big Deal in the gaming industry.  During the game, she texted him, asking if he knew the DM.  Before he could reply, she wrote back, "You do!  He looked at my name badge and said 'OMG! GMS!'  And everyone at the table knows who you are!"  Of course, that would have been funny in and of itself, but at that precise moment, a friend of mine replied to an LJ post where I mentioned going out to dinner with Gareth, saying "Heh! We gamed with Gareth's very nice daughter this afternoon."  Small world.)

Saturday, I made a point to track down Dan Houser, the artist who illustrated "Sins of the Past."  He wasn't in the main dealers' area, so that involved a trek over to the Anime Hotel.  I had a nice visit, met his new artistic partner, and discussed upcoming projects.  Then it was time for me to actually get in some gaming!  I know, who goes to Gen Con to game?

First up was a one-hour DC Adventures demo.  Granted, I'd already bought the game and was a fan of the system, but honestly, how often does one get to play a superhero game with Steve Kenson GMing?  I played Batman, and while I suffered from some very mediocre rolls early on, I managed an amazing Intimidation check and pulled off a spectacular rescue of Nightwing at the end.

Following that was a Day After Ragnarok (Savage Worlds) game run by Jeb, a friend of mine from Austin.  Yes, it's ironic that we have to travel a thousand miles or so in order to play in the same game.  Jeb had recruited various folks he knows online, and it was a bit of an all-star lineup, consisting of RPG reviewer C. W. Richeson, and game designers Rob Heinsoo, Logan Bonner, and Jesse Scoble.  For about ten seconds, I had a "What am I doing with these guys?" moment before my rational mind kicked in and reminded me that we're all gamers, and I probably had a decade at the table on couple of them.  It was a fun session: we were members of the Texas army charged with determining the status of some large naval guns that had been on Galveston island before the Serpentwave devastated the area.  We did a fair bit of recon and quite a bit of shooting.  I think the ending pretty well defined the term "Pyrrhic Victory" (the bad guys committed a mass murder/suicide when it was clear we were winning), but it's a dark setting, so that was OK.

After the game, I met up with Jane and we stopped by the RPGnet meet and greet.  It was cool putting faces to user names, and chatting briefly with one of the group who'd come all the way from Greece.  After the meet-up, we had a quick dinner with Jeb and mutual friend Jason Durall, followed by a return to the hotel, where we watched "Shark Week" in hi-def and finished off some beer we'd bought earlier in the weekend.

We had an early flight on Sunday, so that was it for us.  Another three hours in the air (with a couple at airports) and we were back in Houston.  But we're already making plans for next year.

Next:  The Stuff I Bought


Gen Con!

Aug. 6th, 2010 03:53 pm
theron: My Dice Are Probably Older Than You (Default)
So far, it's been pretty awesome.  I've picked up quite a few things I'd planned and few more I haven't (All for One - Regime Diabolique, for instance).  Reviewing everything is going to take a while, but I think I'll be up to the task.  I've also had the chance to visit with lots of folks I only get to see once or twice a year, and that's always great.

I also got to meet this guy:



On his blog, he asked folks to bring him dice, so I brought him one of this blog's namesakes, the really old dice.  You can barely see it in the mug in front of us - it's a pink TSR d20 that lived in my blue jeans pocket during high school.

Tomorrow, I actually do some actual gaming, with a DC Adventures demo in the morning and Savage Worlds Day After Ragnarok in the afternoon.

(Also, as of this writing, Sins of the Past is #1 on RPGnow's "Hottest Items" list.  I'm not sure what they base it on, but if it's sales, that's really cool.)

theron: My Dice Are Probably Older Than You (Default)
I'm finishing up my packing for Gen Con, but had to take a moment to post this bit of news:

Sins of the Past, my adventure for ICONS is now for sale at RPGnow.
theron: My Dice Are Probably Older Than You (Default)
I've really been remiss in updating here.  I blame a combination of real life issues and residual guilt over writing that wasn't getting done elsewhere.  The writing project eventually got killed because it wasn't coming out the way I wanted.  I may revisit it at some point, but now is not the time.

Despite the vagaries of life, I have managed a fair bit of gaming.  Lots of 4e and some Pathfinder. Our Tuesday group briefly dipped our toes into the Savage Worlds pool, playing a couple of sessions in The Day After Ragnarok setting.  My character was Cliff Craig, a former B-movie star who'd been rejected by the military, and thus stayed on the home front during the war making movies.  We only played out one adventure, but it was a good time and I'm slated to play in a one-shot on Saturday in Indianapolis.

Because Gen Con's this week, providing me a much, much-needed vacation from my day-to-day concerns.  Unlike last year, I don't have a shopping list as long as my arm, so I'm going to probably do a lot more impulse buying.  I know I definitely want to pick up Smallville, which looks utterly intriguing, and I may brave the crowds to try and get a print copy of DC Adventures, even though I've already pre-ordered a copy, just so I can enjoy that new book smell on the convention floor, the way Gary would want us to. :-D

I expect I'll be updating from the convention, as my schedule and wireless permits.



theron: My Dice Are Probably Older Than You (Default)
Give or take a few days, anyway.

I don't have a lot to report on the gaming front these days.  Mostly, because Real Life intervened in a big way with a couple of work crises, some personal obligations (I had to take Defensive Driving for a wreck I was involved in back in March), and the hard drive failing on my primary home machine.  That last one hurt the most, as I lost quite a bit of personal data in the process.

As a result, updating here and even writing on my project has been disrupted severely.  So, without a lot of deep thoughts to share, here's the state of my gaming world at the moment:

I'm still playing 4th ed in the roughly every other Sunday game.  Made second level without dying (a very near thing, actually).

Pathfinder's been on hold for a few weeks while we played the Savage Worlds version of "Day After Ragnarok."  Lots of pulpy fun.  My character, Cliff Craig is a C-list movie star who was declared 4F due to poor vision, which meant he spent the war on the RKO lot making propaganda films and partying with starlets and Howard Hughes.  He's part of a crew of odd individuals (in other words Pulp Heroes) assembled by Mr. Hughes to deal with problems in the post-Serpentfall world.  He's also probably the most "normal" of the bunch.  In our first adventure, we beat up a bunch of mutated Klansmen, which is always a good time.

The next Kids & Parent's & D&D game is in a couple of weeks.  Custody schedules rule when we can play, so it's been very sporadic lately.

I'm starting to get psyched up for GenCon.  I hope to get some pick up games of Icons and whatever else I can find going.

Speaking of Icons, my physical copy of the rules arrived.  It's very pretty.  Also my physical copies of the Dresden Files RPG.  They're massive.  And pretty.

Lastly, I took advantage of Green Ronin's pre-order deal on the DC Adventures Hero's Handbook, which allowed me to pre-order the book and get the PDF immediately for just five bucks more.  Of course, I purchased it right in the middle of all the Real Life stuff mentioned above, so yesterday was really the first chance I've had to look at it.  I printed it out at home and got it bound at Kinko's for five bucks.  It turned out pretty nice:



And now, I'm done blathering.  I've got some ideas percolating for a real post in the near future, but I needed to log in here and update my bookmarks on the newly-restored computer.


theron: My Dice Are Probably Older Than You (Default)
While I've not exactly been filling your days with content as it is, I'm about to go more silent.  Part two of the writing gig for Icons is due in a little under a month, so it's time to kick myself in the ass and get to work turning a few disjointed mental notes into something worth buying.

See you on the other side.

Pro-Tip!

Jun. 9th, 2010 11:13 am
theron: My Dice Are Probably Older Than You (Default)
Advancing on a pair of ogres in such a way as to draw two Attacks of Opportunity at second level is a sub-optimal means of career advancement.  Even if you are a Dwarf Barbarian with twice the HP as the rest of the party.

(Seriously.  Even with my Dwarfy AC bonus, both of the bastards hit Einar for a combined total of 30 points of damage.  He survived, thanks to our Cleric pulling off some seriously handy mojo, but it was a near thing.)
theron: My Dice Are Probably Older Than You (Default)
This afternoon, I'm playing in the first session of a new 4e campaign.   An old friend and gaming buddy just moved back to the area from a few years' exile in California and looking for a game, so G (the DM responsible for the epic Forgotten Realms game from the Tuesday Night Group) is putting one together for him.

It occurs to me that this is the first weekend game I've joined in nearly a decade that wasn't hosted at my house.  It's an odd sensation.  I'm so used to hosting games, even if I'm not running them that it almost feels like I'm doing something wrong in going out to spend a few hours gaming somewhere else.  Or maybe it's just laziness and I'm used to the game coming to me rather than the other way around.

Anyway, it should be entertaining.  My exposure to 4e is still rather limited:  we had a few abortive efforts on Tuesdays when the game first came out, I ran the three sessions and played another with the kids, and I've helped play-test some rounds for OwlCon.  But I really haven't had much exposure to the game as a player.  I've yet to advance a character past second level, for instance.

So here's hoping Pseudolus, called "The Lyre," actually has an adventuring career ahead of him.
theron: My Dice Are Probably Older Than You (Default)

So, there we were this past Tuesday night.  Somewhere underneath a desecrated temple of Rao on the outskirts of the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is Hommlet in the early days.  We'd fought some nasty undead and were on the trail of the Iuzite priest behind the temple's destruction.

We were also in possession of a riddle that made some odd reference to breaking a fourth wall.  In the course of our exploration, we found a wall that seemed to fit the bill.  What's more, it seemed there was a hollow behind the wall.  All we needed was some way to break through.

And there, on my character sheet, under equipment, were the words "Miner's Pick."  I didn't even remember buying it.  Sure, I remember buying a set of manacles.  That's just common sense if you're playing a barbarian.  But a pick?  I had no idea what possessed me to pick it up.  But there it was, and we got through the wall in record time.
 

theron: My Dice Are Probably Older Than You (Default)
It's been a long and lazy weekend, with much time for mulling things over gaming-wise, but no actual gaming.  My hopelessly short attention span flitted from Westerns to Martial Arts and back to Sword and Sorcery over a four day span.   Of course, since I don't think I could get a quorum of players up for any of those genres (both the Feng Shui game and a Barbarians of Lemuria game were pitched to my Tuesday group, to generally indifferent responses), the point is largely moot.

I'm supposed to join a new 4e game next weekend, which means I ought to get started on my character fairly soon-ish.  I think we're still playing Pathfinder on Tuesdays, so I'm looking forward to getting back to that (I had to miss last week's game due to family stuff).

But generally, I'm just sort of in a dead zone at the moment.  Nothing grabs and keeps my attention for long, and the creative springs are running dry without an actual outlet.  Sure, I could burn a few hours writing a cool sword & sorcery setting that's been living in my head for a couple of years, but honestly, that's not going to bring it any closer to the game table.

theron: My Dice Are Probably Older Than You (Default)
Lately, I've still been mulling over a Feng Shui game. For some reason, FS always has to have a funky 70s soundtrack, at least in my head. Also, the next writing project involves comic book martial arts, which also screams 70s to me. The upshot is, I've been listening to a 70s retro station on XM when I'm driving around from site to site for work.

This afternoon, this came on:



Ever have a song that takes you back to a particular time and place?  That's "Hold the Line" for me.  I'm not and never have been a fan of Toto.  But whenever I hear it, I'm immediately thrown back in time to New Years Eve, 1979, sitting in my room at my parents' house, working on keying a dungeon I was going to spring on my lunchtime gaming group when school started back up in another week or so.

(Yes, I was a stereotypically boring nerdly sixteen year old.  Such is life.)

Anyway, what takes you back to old gaming memories?

theron: My Dice Are Probably Older Than You (Default)
Today was the long-awaited revival of D&D With The Kids.  Due to the holidays, conventions, custodial schedules, and life in general getting in the way, it was our first session since last November.  Having shepherded the young Roadwardens through first level, I surrendered the DM's screen to Mr. A (the same individual who's running our Pathfinder game on Tuesdays).  The current adventure found the Roadwardens (with the addition of my character, Pomeroy - an Eladrin Swordmage) sent to the mysterious desert lands of the east, in search of a missing nobleman.

We navigated the hazards of the desert, including a band of desperate brigands before making our way to an oasis city in the middle of the Shifting Lands.  While following up leads and visiting the large marketplace, we were set upon by kenku assassins who pushed us to our limits before falling.  All in all, a most triumphal effort.

But the piece de resistance was the kenku's treasures.  A pulled out all the stops on this one:



Before we could open the chest, our Rogue had to make a couple of Thievery rolls to render it safe.  Within, we found two potions of healing, a ring worth 100 gp, 60 loose gp, a scroll containing a reference to a Snake Chapel (a clue!), and various sticks and shiny rocks (kenku are bird-men, after all).
 


theron: My Dice Are Probably Older Than You (Default)
So, recently (since last weekend or so), I've been all obsessed over Westerns.  It might be due to the trailers and commercials for "Red Dead Redemption," a very sweet looking video game I'll never play (because I don't own a console capable of running it and am not about to spend that sort of money just for a game I'd likely suck at).  It may be a really spurious piece I saw on The History Channel about Jesse James.  Doubtlessly the episodes of "Gunsmoke," and "The Six-Shooter" I hear on XM Radio Classics have a bit to do with it as well. Whatever the reason, in the past week, I've read two novels and pulled out a bunch of my Western genre RPGs to look over.

It's a lot of stuff, to tell the truth.  Of course, I've been accumulating RPGs since god was a corporal, so that's part of it.  For instance, I still have all three editions of Boot Hill , plus all of the modules for it.  I've got KenzerCo's Aces & Eights, a beautiful book housing a system that just seems impossibly complex.  I've got Coyote Trail, Wild West Cinema, and Dogs in the Vineyard.  I've got tons of every iteration of Deadlands (a game I've still only managed to play once, and what a horrid experience that was), Six Guns and Sorcery for Castle Falkenstein, Six Gun, Dust Devils, Sidewinder, and who knows what else hiding in storage.

That having been said, I've played very few Western games and only slightly more game sessions.  Because the Western genre seems a very hard sell to most gamers I've known.  Many consider a straight-up historical-style game "boring."  Even "cinematic" games run the risk of crossed wires as to what the term actually means.  An inevitable response to this is to start adding to the genre: magic it up, weird it up, tech it up, monster it up (Deadlands does all of the above), until you're looking at something that's more "Western-shaped"  than actual Western.  And that's fine if it's what floats your boat.  But such approaches run the risk of alienating as many people as they include.  

For instance, I don't mind mixing the West with Supernatural Horror and Magic.  Nor do I mind mixing it with "Wild Wild West"-style gadgetry and low-end Steampunk elements.  But for some reason, I really dislike the idea of putting all three in the mix.  Another downer for me is the alt-history approach both Deadlands and Aces & Eights take that leaves the Confederacy more or less intact.  As a student of history (I won't flatter myself with the title 'historian'), I just don't see the purpose for this.  In Deadlandsit does serve to provide one more competing faction in the Great Rail Wars, but I find the whole matter of romanticizing the Confederacy horribly distasteful.  Not to mention the fact that the way the Civil War ended had a good deal to do with the birth of the so-called "Wild West" in the first place.  The whole thing reminds me of how 7th Sea tried to present a pirate setting without a New World.

Anyway, I'm not sure where I'm going with this.  My gaming attention span is horribly short, and by next week I may be obsessed with something else entirely.  At least I've gotten a couple of good reads out of the deal.

theron: My Dice Are Probably Older Than You (Default)
I missed a week of my Tuesday night Pathfinder game, as my wife's had some health issues that took precedence.  However, last night Einar, the less than sober dwarf "fighter with anger management issues" (Barbarian) was back in action.  As I mentioned previously, this campaign is "The Dawn of the Temple of Elemental Evil," and despite being a 3.5-derived game, the overall tone and approach to things is very Gygaxian.  Treasure is rare.  Threats are not clearly delineated into level-appropriate channels.  Last night included a very tough fight with some zombies, a skeletal champion, an iron cobra, a priest of Iuz and his orc sidekick.  The highlight of the fight might have been our priest of Wee Jas hitting the Iuzite for 1 point of ongoing damage that lasted one round.  On the surface, this was ludicrous.  In practice, the fact that he was taking ongoing damage actually forced him to make a concentration check that caused a significant spell failure.

Or maybe our poor rogue who couldn't make a series of DC 11 Fortitude saves and lost something like five points of CON.

The real highlight of the night was the Blasphemy Eater.  We're not entirely sure what it is, really, other than some sort of Outsider that looks like an enormous three headed raven.  It's very smart, very evil, and very much out of our weight class.  It's also fond of riddles, and dropped a doozy on us.  Of course, Einar isn't remotely smart enough to figure it out, but then again, I don't think I am either.
theron: My Dice Are Probably Older Than You (Default)
Since the publisher announced the Secret Writing Project I've been playtesting, I can finally talk about it.  It's an adventure for Icons, a rules-light supers game coming out in June from Adamant Entertainment and Cubicle 7.  Once Icons is out in print, Adamant will be publishing PDF adventures to support the game, and mine, "Sins of the Past" is one of the initial four offerings.The current plan is for me to write another adventure, which I'll be starting on next week.

While this isn't my first paid work in the gaming biz, it is my first in a very long time (nearly ten years) and I'm quite excited about it, especially to be attached to a product that's generated so much interest and buzz in a very short time.
theron: My Dice Are Probably Older Than You (Default)
Game rules and messing with same.

I'm not much of a rules wonk.  Generally speaking, if a game lets me do what I want, I'm happy.  If it does so and gets the hell out of my way so I can do my stuff, so much the better.  The less fiddly stuff for me to do behind the screen, the better it all turns out in the end.  This is why I like systems like Ubiquity (from Hollow Earth Expedition) and Cinematic Unisystem, and Feng Shui.

Lately, I've been thinking a lot about that last one.  For years, Feng Shui was my go-to gonzo cinematic adventure game: easy to run, easy to reskin, hard to break.  I used it for the first two of my "Heroes of the New Wave" one-shots, and I honestly think this past year's game suffered a little from a change of system.

The things is, Feng Shui has some notable defects.  While it was the first game that really quantified the notion of "Bringing the Awesome" in a philosophical way, it didn't always manage it in a mechanical way.  While it encourages crazy over the top action, it still imposes some difficulty penalties that make the whole thing a little counter-intuitive.  Granted, the GM can handwave a fair bit of the non-combat bits, but when you need hard and fast numbers and the chart says that your awesome cool stunt will incur a -4 penalty, then you're kind of screwed.

(For those unfamiliar with Feng Shui's system, it's basically Stat + Skill + 1d6 - 1d6.  Except that sixes explode and re-roll, which can throw up a wide range of probabilities centered on zero.  Characters can spend Fortune Dice to get an extra positive d6, but they're fairly rare.)

So, last week, I was looking at Savage Worlds, which looks neat and I really need to play it someday soon.  It uses the natural progression of polyhedral dice to cover increased capabilities.  So a d8 skill is better than a d6.  Which got me thinking, "What if I tried using some other polyhedral dice mixed in with the six siders in FS?"

And thus, my idea was born, with a little inspiration from Exalted.  Which is only fair since a lot of the folks who created that game worked on Feng Shui.  Basically, I keep the same die roll resolution for everyday tasks.  If a PC does a minor stunt (interacts with the scenery or describes the action in a cool manner), he get a d8 for his positive die.  If he does a major stunt, he gets a d10.  If he brings the complete and utter over the top awesome, he gets 2d6 (the same as using a Fortune Die without having to spend one).

Someone on RPGnet asked how I'd use this rule for NPCs, and honestly, my short answer is "I won't."  It's too much work and can lead to abuse.  Sure, I'll describe cool and crazy stuff on my NPC's behalf, but it's window dressing.  Second, if I'm the arbiter of the players' crazy stunt ideas, that's one thing.  If I'm suddenly supposed to rate my own and give mechanical benefit to my NPCs?  That's more power than I need as a GM.

I have no idea if this will work, but my gut tells me it's worth pursuing, provided I get a chance to try it out.



theron: My Dice Are Probably Older Than You (Default)
And Einar got one last night.  Of course, the victim was a stoutly barred door, but he still did something like 35 HP to it in one swing (3d12+12 is a lot of hurt for a first level character to dole out).

The rest of the game was similarly marvelous.  A (the GM) is an old-school Greyhawk geek himself and the easter eggs were thick on the ground. The rest of the group (the characters, not the players) seem to have decent chemistry for a pack of violent sociopaths who meet along the road.  Most of last night's session involved getting to Hommlet and then looking around and learning about what's going on while hanging around the Inn of the Welcome Wench, which allowed A to use a beautiful map he found online and had printed up to poster size.  This iteration of the town is significantly nastier than the one in ToEE, as humanoids are not only wandering around openly, but they're effectively running the place.  We met a likely rabble-rouser named Rufus who talked us into raiding the local brewery, which had been taken by orcs.  We killed a few and took down a drunk Ogre, and that's where we left it for the night.  We've got a couple of other quests lined up, but we'll first need to see what repercussions there will be for the brewery raid.

theron: My Dice Are Probably Older Than You (Default)
The way our Tuesday night group works when it comes to choosing what to play is fairly democratic.  We have a spreadsheet we keep in Google Docs, where people can list games they'd like to run.  Out to the side, folks can rate their interest from 1 (mild) to 3 (who do I have to kill to play this?).  The miracle of mathematics allows us to get an idea of the overall interest levels.

Anyway, I hadn't really planned on pitching anything at the moment.  I still have another adventure to write for the Unnamed Project, and if I do run something, I'd like to to be for more than the four week mini-campaigns I've run in the past (Hollow Earth Expedition and Buffy in Arkham).  But, the hamster wheel of my imagination had other ideas, so I'm offering the following:

"Roll for Initiative" - for Barbarians of Lemuria.  This would largely be what it says on the box: classic-style Sword & Sorcery using the best purpose-built system for the genre.  The title comes from a conceit I want to use to kick off each adventure.  I describe a moment of wonder based on the PCs surroundings, then bring it to Earth with the crash of battle and the words, "Roll for Initiative," kicking off each session in media res.

"Blowing Up Hong Kong on 358.15 HKD per Day"  - for Feng Shui.  FS is my go-to cinematic action game.  I've run some wonderful game sessions with it and twisted it all out of shape to make it do things I wanted that didn't fit the mold.  But in all that time, I've never run it for anything but one-shots, and only on a few occasions did I run them in the actual game setting.  Since I own everything that's been published for it, I think I owe it to the game to run one campaign that actually uses the published world.  So this would be a straight-up Secret War game, with explosions, mutant cyborgs from the future, kung fu hijinks, crazy eunuch sorcerers, cross-time conspiracies, and bionic gorilla terrorists.  In other words, Tuesday.

If neither gets embraced by the Tuesday crew, I'll just keep 'em on ice in case I get a weekend group going again.

The New Guy

May. 2nd, 2010 10:36 am
theron: My Dice Are Probably Older Than You (Default)
Now that our massive FR game is done and my playtesting is over (thanks again to all my playtesters, the publisher is very happy with the manuscript), the Tuesday Night Crew needs a new game.  For the moment, it looks like it's going to be a Pathfinder game set in Greyhawk, called Dawn of the Temple of Elemental Evil.  A, the GM, has quite a history with the ToEE, having run it in college for some of the folks in the current group, then running "Return to," when it came out for 3.5.  "Dawn of" is his own creation.  As an old-school Greyhawk nerd, I nearly whooped for joy when he pitched it.

Of course, a new game requires new characters and Pathfinder does enough cool/interesting stuff with the core classes that picking one out is a bit of an exercise in and of itself.  My first inclination was a dour and militant paladin of Saint Cuthbert, kind of a Solomon Kane with a cudgel sort.  But then I realized I've spent the past three years playing a paladin, so maybe I should do something different.  Spellcaster?  I'm not that good with the logistics.  Rogue?  I've played one recently.

Barbarian?  Hmmm...that's definitely off my beaten path.  I'm not too fond of muscle-bound illiterates, but playing up the Rage as berzerkergang certainly had potential.  I mulled it over a few minutes more and came up with Einar.  Einar is a dwarf, possibly from the Kron Hills, but his memory is rather murky on this point.  He's a filthy little ball of anger in chainmail, toting a greataxe and wearing a small sign on his chest that reads "Sobre __ Days," which he adjusts as needed.  His personality can be summed up with the phrase, "Violence is the first recourse of the violent." I'm far more comfortable developing personality nuance and history on the fly during play, so that's enough to get me started.  

I just hope he lives long enough for me to get to know him better.