Monday, December 30, 2013

End of the Year

As 2013 winds down, I thought I would take a look back at my gaming life over the past year.

What did I play?
A lot of 3.55E (that's 3.5 with some extras stolen from other games). Our campaign to save an alternate Europe from the Plague Lords and their demonic allies waged on, and it seems there may or may not be an end in sight. Ahnuld picked up a few levels in Favored Soul, he has a sword blessed by the God of War, and is currently trying to muster an army of Orcs to help defend against the incursion.

Also played some D&D NEXT. The playtests went well, I thought. Nothing Earth-shattering, but I'm not sure we went about it the right way. We played a really good story (that will probably continue into next year), but it didn't call forth much need to put the new rules to the test. Which may not be bad thing. The feeling we all get from NEXT is that the rules are lighter and more streamlined than recent editions, and so the lack of need to really get into them probably means they work better. At least, that's what I'm hoping.

Went to my first gaming convention this year, with the inaugural year of Gamehole Con right here in Madison, WI. I got to play some B/X run by David Cook; played games of Call of Cthulhu, Pathfinder, and Dungeon Crawl Classics; sat in on panels with Ernie Gygax, Jim Ward, Kieth Parkinson and Terry Pavlet. I'm really looking forward to next year, which should be even bigger and better.

And finally, I self-published some stuff. It seems they were generally well-received, especially for a one-man operation. Not sure how much more I will follow that trail, though.

What am I looking forward to in 2014?
Pretty much more of the same; more D&D, more NEXT, more Gamehole Con. Also looking forward to Gary Con in March for my wife's birthday.

What am I hoping for?
Honestly, I'd like to play more games. And not just more of the same, but other games. I'd really like to play some supers, and/or spies. Maybe some Sci-Fi, or even Science Fantasy. Basically, I have spent many years reading and playing games from all kinds of genres. And I'd really like to get back into that again. There are so many games to play, it seems a waste to just stick to D&D. Besides, as much as I love fantasy, it gets stale after a while. I crave more.

So, what about you? What did you do in gaming in 2013? And how does 2014 look to be shaping up?

Thursday, December 26, 2013

First hit's free...

A few months I got this jones to play WoW again. Yeah, I know there are better games out there (according to all of my friends who told me to buy Guild Wars II). But visually, nothing strikes my fancy like WoW for good fantasy computer gaming. Well, Skyrim is pretty great too, but I do that on the XBox.

Anyways, while I was on, my 18-year old daughter got into it. I ended up cancelling after a single month because my video card burned out. It's been replaced now, but I had decided to forego re-upping WoW again. I really don't need the distraction.

Apparently my daughter wasn't willing to just let it go. She decided to start paying for my subscription for me, just so she could play again. Heh.

So, I guess I'll be able to work on getting my Orc Monk up in level again. Sweet!

Monday, December 23, 2013

Monday Memories – Dragon*Star

Probably one of my favorite 3rd party campaign settings for 3.x was Fantasy Flight’s Dragon*Star. With the simple premise of “D&D in space” they managed to take fantasy and integrate it into a setting that I think is one of the best space opera settings around.

The idea is that known space is governed by the chromatic and metallic dragons. And every few thousand years, the current Dragon Emperor steps down and another takes over. Only, by agreement, the chromatic and metallic alternate.

At the time of the campaign setting, a gold is stepping down, and a red is coming in. And these dragons adhere to the classic D&D tropes of alignment. So, a Lawful Good dragon is leaving, and a Chaotic Evil one is about to take control. Let the chaos and strife ensue!

This was one of the few campaigns that I actually ran as the DM, and I didn’t really integrate much of the political struggles into my game. My story was basically Firefly with magic.

The party consisted of a cat-person who owned the ship, the Nefarious Lion, and his co-pilot, and Orc named 13. Along the way they picked up two former soldiers, one being a psionicist and medic, a former “NASCAR” type space-racer, and a blob-like mechanic (basically a conversion of Star Frontiers’ Dralasite) who had been raised by dwarves.

I ran several adventures, including one inspired by Event Horizon for a Halloween game. Although each was an individual “episode” of sorts, there were a few subplots that ran through the whole thing. I had several more adventures planned out, but life got in the way for a while, and we ended up changing games. My group did that a lot.

The game itself was very cool. You used the D&D rules for almost everything, with the DS books providing additions for things like technology and such. Magic was just as prevalent as it was in a traditional D&D game. In fact, it was designed so you could bring your D&D character into Dragon*Star, and explained it that some worlds had not been brought into the Empire yet. Which made for some interesting opportunities for game play.

The whole thing got a lot of comparison to Spelljammer. But really, instead of being a fantasy game with sci-fi elements, it was a sci-fi game with fantasy elements. Which ended up giving it a much more unique flavor.

Some of the stories I ran and had planned to run have been adapted to works of fiction (in various stages of development). I am currently creating a setting for stories that is similar in tone (mixing my fantasy chocolate with my sci-fi peanut butter), and I will probably port over some of the plots and ideas when I can.

Although Dragon*Star is out of print now, you can still buy the PDF’s from Fantasy Flight’s website, and you can often find the books in used book and game stores. I highly recommend them.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Determined to help

This morning I opened Facebook while having my coffee, and I see a post from Ari Marmell humbly asking for some help. If you read this blog (and the credits pages of your RPG's), there's a good chance his name is familiar. Ari is a talented writer, and a very good man, who has sadly fallen on hard times, like many of us.

Today he is attempting to dig his way out by promoting his writing. Ari has a new, self-published collection of short stories that could be of interest to readers of this blog, and others. I don't have that large of an audience, but if just a few people would share and spread this...well, you know how this stuff works.

So please, take a little read of his blog post (and peruse his site), and see if you can help out in any way. Personally, I bought the Kindle version this morning.

We are a community. If we don't help each other, who will?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Monday Memories - Hearst, Andrew Hearst.

During the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in high school, I was hard-pressed to find a gaming group. I had friends who gamed, but for the most part, they had more interesting things to do at the time. Then I met Darren, and we soon discovered a common love of gaming, and of James Bond (and also of watching General Hospital, but that's a whole other story). So, we decided to embark on some fine Solo Superspy RPG-ing using Victory Games' James Bond 007 RPG. I immediately rolled up a character and dove in.

My character was Agent 005, Andrew Hearst. I chose Hearst because I loved Hearst Castle, and it was the most European-sounding name I could think of. Andrew just seemed to fit with it. The first thing I noticed about Hearst was that we was larger and more muscular than Bond. So, for visuals, I chose Antony Hamilton, from his role on the TV show Cover Up (he replaced the first guy who accidentally killed himself on set). Interestingly enough, Hamilton was considered for the role of James Bond in 1987's The Living Daylights, but the producers rejected him because he was gay. Had I known that at the time I might have been devastated, as I was very conservative-minded (military brat). However, I didn't find that fact out until many years later, when I had matured into a much more open-minded adult. So, I was just sad that he was gone (died of HIV complications in 1995).

Anyways, Andrew Hearst was a former Royal Marine, and bit more of a "direct action" kind of spy (actually, much like Bond in Daniel Craig's movies). He went on three of the published missions, Goldfinger, You Only Live Twice, and For Your Eyes Only (if I recall correctly). I loved playing those missions. First of all, while the main plot was basically the same as the movies/books, the details were different, so you couldn't just ape Bond and hope to get through. You would invariably face things Bond hadn't. That being said, when you did find yourself in a similar situation, you could always try what Bond tried, if you were stumped for other ideas. All-in-all it was a very fun game.

I honestly don't remember much about the mechanics. I mean, I own a copy of the game now, and occasionally flip through it. But I haven't played it since those days, so I don't remember how it all works. I just remember being enthralled with Darren's copies of the books (especially the Q Manual, which I also now own).

If I were to play a Superspy RPG now, I would probably go with AEG's Spycraft. However, I would not be opposed to using that old 007 game again. It definitely had a unique feel, and captured the tone and feel of a good Bond novel and/or movie.

Incidentally, Hearst has appeared in my many attempts to write a superspy novel. I actually wrote an opening chapter, and polished it into a short story called "Without Hesitation." If anyone is interested in that, let me know. I can post it up here.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Hero's Journey for free!

Ok, that didn't take nearly as long as I thought it would.

As mentioned before, I have put my retro-clone WIP out there for public consumption. You can find the link on the My Products tab above.

Or, ya know, I could just link to it here.

Gonna stick it out there

I came to a decision about Hero's Journey today. After looking at the whole thing from different angles, I've decided to just post the whole damn thing for free here. And I might even list it at RPGNow as a PWYW game.

The main reason I am doing this is because it is pretty rough, untested, and kind of incomplete. I have a lot of stuff in there (about 40 pages), but it still needs a lot more to be a real game.

I finished entering the monster list today, and while I was doing that I realized it was kind of missing stuff. It's in a table format, which didn't allow much room for flavor text or descriptions. The table is really there to illustrate how to convert monsters from other editions to Hero's Journey to make them compatible with the new combat rules I came up with. The rest relies on the GM looking at other resources for specifics (I used the Moldvay/Cook books for my references). And that's no way to format a professional game.

I know that a lot of the sections will probably seem incomplete to another readers. Everything is crystal clear to me, but I have the advantage of knowing what I wanted to say, and not just what I actually wrote. Most of the new stuff is a combination of old house rules and ideas that have been percolating in my head for years. This game was my way of putting them all on paper and seeing if I could make them all mesh. I think I succeeded, but I will never know until A) I play test the rules, and B) other people play test them and send me feedback.

So, I will work up a decent cover image, and then format it all for public consumption soon. I'll probably print a copy out myself and see if I can coerce someone to play it with me. Yeah, good luck with that!

Monday, December 9, 2013

Monday Memories - Divin' through the Stargate!

I thought I would try my hand at doing a weekly feature. So, from now until I no longer want to, Monday mornings will have a blog I call Monday Memories. This is where I will talk about the games I played in the past, and how I feel about them now.

For my first entry, let’s talk about the Stargate SG-1 RPG from Alderac Entertainment Group.

The System: Based on the d20 mechanics, Stargate used the rules from Spycraft, and re-created the long-running TV series, based on the 1994 film starring Kurt Russell. Because of the heavy military influence of the show (which was almost unique in that it had actual active duty Air Force personnel as advisors), Spycraft was a perfect fit.

The Campaign: Our campaign centered around our team, designated SG-4, and it was commanded by my character, Ltc. Matthew Valentine, a former Special Forces officer, now working a desk at the Pentagon (and played, in my mind, by George Clooney). We also had a Marine, a former astronaut, a former Para-Rescue, a CIA agent, and a defecting Jaffa. The marine left early on (due to the player having to back out), but the rest of us continued on. And the group even played during my own absence after I moved away a couple of years later.

Most of our early adventures centered around a group of Goa’uld system lords based on Greek deities, specifically, a nasty bitch called Artemis. These were interspersed with some one-off “episodes” (including one based on the idea of the Doom video games).

Eventually, the team found their way to a Ringworld, and were set to spend the rest of the campaign exploring that. It was at this point that I had moved away, so Valentine was promoted to full-bird Colonel, and put in charge of the Ringworld station. That way, should I make it back down to San Diego for a visit, he would be available to jump in on a mission. However, the campaign eventually fizzled as people drifted apart.

I actually built a website for the campaign, if anyone is interested. Sorry about the pop-ups and ads. It’s old, as is my website that hosted it, but still fun to look at for me.

Memories: We had a lot of fun with this one. Between myself and the player with the CIA agent, we had enough real-world military knowledge to add a lot of details to the game, differentiating it from the Air Force-heavy show, including a lot of Army-heavy influences (like weapons, tactics, etc.).

We had a few running jokes. Like diving through the Stargate; we made it a point to do that occasionally, even if it wasn’t necessary, just because it always looked so cool on the show (much to Gen. Hammond’s chagrin). And grenades; we were the team who took the old adage that “any problem can be solved with the proper application of explosives” to a whole new level. I believe the team was responsible for the destruction of at least two Goa’uld system ships this way.

In short, this was one of my all-time favorite RPG experiences. And I would totally love to play the game again.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Pay What You Want?

So, I've had a little bit of experience with RPGNow's PWYW feature now. I put Attack of the Furryons! out in that format, and I have actually had a handful of people pay the suggested $1 price tag for it. So far, no one has reviewed it, but that's not a big deal for that one. The supplement for my Life of Rage - OSR Edition, Qruzlat, has seen almost no movement at all. So, today I converted it to a PWYW as well. We'll see how that goes.

Which brings me to Hero's Journey. I am almost done with the writing. Right now I have to convert the monster list from the original listings to HJ stats, and it's ready to go. I also reduced the list from 100 monsters to 50. Now, what I am thinking of doing is publishing it as a PWYW version, without any art (though I'll probably do a simple cover to catch the eye), and maybe offer a fixed price version once I can get some drawings done for it. The fixed price version will probably also include a bunch of new info, and maybe a workable setting to use.

Anyways, this past weekend, we got to play another session of our D&D Next game. I'm liking the system, and am kind of excited to get the final version when it's released next year. It seems to have a good blend of later edition crunch, combined with the early editions' simplicity and flexibility.

On a somewhat related front, before the D&D Next game, I had a fun little discussion with the DM about the various Warhammer games, and I brought up the fact that I own a copy of Dark Heresy from Fantasy Flight Games. Which, of course, lead me to taking it out and reading through some of it. And now I want to play. It's too bad my current gaming group seems to have no interest in anything but D&D. And really, just the one campaign, with some side-sessions of Next playtest.

Sometimes I forget that there is a whole slew of other games out there that I like to play, or want to play. Especially here on this blog. I need to remedy that. So, future posts will most likely step away from D&D and OSR, and chit-chat about some of the other games I love.