Monday, December 12, 2016

Turtle Island

Some of you may have noticed the new game image to the right.  This is the game we are currently playing.  My wife’s Dragon Age game got put on hold for various personal reasons, and one of the guys in our group has been working on Turtle Island for a long time.  So, we just decided to jump in.

Basically, it’s 14th century “North America” (as in before it was known as such).  We’re all members of the Penobscot tribe (plenty of M*A*S*H jokes to be had every time the name is mentioned), living in what is currently the state of Maine.

It’s a fun take on D&D for many reasons.  Mainly, Native Americans (or Indigenous Peoples).  That right there makes it a cool idea.  And all that goes with it makes it a very unique play setting.  Things like no armor to speak of, no “uber” spells (like Fireball or Lightning Bolt), different kinds of classes, and unique takes on existing classes.

All of this is handled well by the DM who wrote a lot of new rules and variations to cover these ideas.  I’m pushing him to put it all into a publishable format.  I think this would do gangbusters at RPGNow.

Our group is kind of large, but with a wide variety of characters and character-types.  So far we’ve fought some bears, a giant snake, a giant lobster (this is Maine, after all), and a witch.  We’re still dealing with the witch, though.  She did a number on an NPC, and we are inclined to help her, and the village in general, out of this mess.

And once again, I have pigeon-holed myself into the role of hulking warrior.  So, to counter that, I’ve decided that my excessively large Brave (Fighter), who spent time among the Bear Spirits in the Spirit Realm, is very self-conscious about his freakish size and strength.  I imagine him being like if Andre the Giant had been an Indigenous.  His name is Sitting Bear, mainly because he has taken on a lot of the mannerisms of a bear, including just sitting when he is not active.

Already had some interesting RP moments with him.  He has an affinity with bears, so he doesn’t eat bear meat, and has a preference for eating a lot of fish.  This affinity came into play when he stopped his companions from killing a mama bear who was defending her cub by imitating a bear and turning on his party to “scare them off.”  And it worked!  The mama and her cub escaped into the woods unharmed (papa bear had already been killed, which upset Sitting Bear somewhat).

He also started an odd romantic involvement of sorts with an NPC who is physically deformed, which he identifies with.  It’s a long, complicated story, but it’s fun.

Probably won’t get to play again until after the new year, but I’m looking forward to seeing where this is going.

Monday, November 7, 2016

Orcspendibles and Gamehole 4

I have begun to lay the groundwork for my “Orcspendibles” game (which may end up being the actual title of the game).  I am definitely going to use the 5e rules, and I have made a preliminary list of all of the modifications I will need to make, and the extras I will need to add.

In a nutshell, the initial playable races will be Orcs, Half-orcs, and Goblins.  I will have a short list of Backgrounds that are relevant to the setting, most of which I will have to create from scratch.  But I like doing that sort of thing, so it’ll be cool.

There will also be some other stuff I will need to create and write up, including a set of rules I have in mind for randomly generating missions.  And I will most likely put it all together as a supplement book for sale at RPGNow.  Going to attempt to do all of the artwork myself as well.  Been getting back into drawing lately, so I can probably pull that off.  Though I wouldn’t turn down any art donations…

My latest decision, though, is to include minis at the table.  For that I will dig out my old copy of Gorkamorka, and paint up a few orcs and stuff.  If I can find my old WH40K army, I’ll have some goblin figures to paint up too.  I’ll probably enlist my wife to help with the painting.

I got some renewed vigor in my motivation during Gamehole Con 4 this past weekend.  Apparently I have until roughly the end of December to submit games to Gary Con.  So, I may end up running my first Con session there in March.  But only if I have the rules written and at least one playtest with my group before the end of the year.

As to the Con itself, another homerun.  And, as always, life had a way of not allowing to me to game quite as much as I wanted.  However, I can honestly say that ALL of the gaming I did was quality stuff.  Had a good time interacting with my fellow gamers, and saw many familiar faces, as well as new ones that will probably become familiar in the years to come.

The games were all pretty fun.  I especially liked the BareBones Wuxia game.  Got to play the brawler type of character that I always love in wuxia films.  The other fun point was playing with Luke Gygax on Sunday (yes, you can all be jealous).  He’s really cool, and it was fun to hear his stories about the games his dad would run for him when he was younger.  Of course, he and I are both Army and Desert Storm vets, so there were some in-jokes shared about that.

All-in-all, another great Con.  And though Gary Con can’t get here soon enough, I am very much looking forward to Gamehole 5 already.

So, anyone find themselves at Gamehole this year?  Did I game with any of you and not know it?

Thursday, October 27, 2016

Gamehole Con Level 4

Wow.  Been a while.  Anyone miss me?  Probably not.  :)

Anyways, next weekend is Gamehole Con 4 here in Madison, WI.  I'm looking forward to strutting around with "Level 4" on my badge.  As always, the wife will be there as well, and my daughter on Saturday.

This year is kind of a weird mix of games for me.  Instead of aiming for a genre theme or anything, I specifically went for stuff I'd never played, or don't play anymore.  I think I got a good mix.  The only game I have specific experience with is AD&D on Sunday:

Friday, 10:00 AM - Shark Riders of the Purple Plain (Badlands & Barbarians)
Friday, 2:00 PM - Shotguns & Sorcery Demo
Friday, 8:00 PM - ICONS: Urban Jungle!
Saturday, 8:00 AM - BareBones Wuxia! The Willow Blades
Saturday, 2:00 PM - Into the Unknown (Castles & Crusades)
Saturday, 4:00 PM - The Sea-Wolf's Daughter (Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea)
Sunday, 10:00 AM - The Cave of Wisdom (AD&D 1E)

I also have Saturday night free after 8:00 PM, so I might try to find an open game in the gaming room, or maybe just chill out for a bit.  I don't think my wife has a game at that time either, so we may do something together.  Especially since we are not scheduled together at all for the whole weekend.

Speaking of gaming, I am entertaining the idea of running a game or two next year.  I was thinking about Gary Con in the Spring, but it's already too late to submit games for that, I hear.  So, Gamehole 5 might be my debut as a convention GM.

The first game I am considering running is an idea that I am actually developing as a novel, and the one I am going to attempt to do NaNoWriMo with this year.  Inspired by Fantasy Flight games' old 3.x setting, Dragonstar, my game would focus on a team of orc mercenaries.  The idea was sparked by a friend who suggested I combine my love of orcs with my love of The Expendibles.  Thus "The Orcspendibles" was born.

Right now I am leaning towards using a modified version of D&D 5e for the rules.  Though I might go with something else if the inspiration hits.  Basically, I want something simple and fast, and something that the majority of people will already know.

I may also run a game of Mutants & Marvels.  It's still getting a little action over at RPGNow, selling at least a couple of copies each month.

So, any of my faithful readers going to be there?

Monday, August 29, 2016


When last we left off, the party had just defeated the wight guardians in their magical chamber, and had moved into the short hallway beyond. Here they took a short rest, while the rogue investigated the double bronze doors. They were locked, with a large keyhole on this side. Beyond he periodically heard guttural voices and movement.

Having not found a key, the rogue picked the lock, and was rewarded with the a satisfying click. Preparing for whatever lay beyond, the barbarian and cleric positioned themselves at the door, ready to charge in, while the rest lined up behind them

As they shoved the doors open, the party entered a large room carved from obsidian. The floor was lined with six, large pillars, and there was an altar at the far end. Standing on the altar was the obsidian and marble likeness of an ancient god with one large eye and six splayed arms. However, none could ponder the identity of the god, as there were five bugbears and a half-ogre waiting for the party.

The barbarian got the drop and charged in, swinging wildly at the first bugbear. Then all hell broke loose as spells were casts, arrows were fired, and weapons were swung. The battle was brutal, and loud, as Shatter spells did much damage to the bugbears, as well as the statue, which lost two arms, and nearly half of its head.

With most of the bugbears down, the barbarian had the half-ogre cornered. The wizard slammed her flaming sphere into the being, causing him to finally fall to the floor. But, just as she was about finish him off with a well-placed spell, a voice boomed in their heads…

(This was read aloud to the players at this point)


Suddenly you all feel yourselves compelled to stand still, your weapons dropping to your sides, the words to spells being cast dying on your lips. In front of the cyclopean idol appears a man. He is of medium height and build, with dark, angular features, and flowing black hair. He is dressed in simple black clothing of indeterminate design. He gazes at you appraisingly, as a smirk creeps across his face. He begins to casually walk among you, hands clasped behind his back, as he speaks in a casual manner.

"So, you are the current pebbles in my boot." He stops and gazes at Graz and Colette’s holy symbols. "Impressive. I see that the All-Seeing One is doing well. And though I do not know her personally, the Wise Warrioress also seems to be well-established. Good, good." He paces about a bit more.

"When we were first brought to this world, I had thought to maybe re-invent myself. After eons of my old ways, I thought perhaps I would ‘turn over a new leaf,’ as you say. Start fresh. Entice followers, and gain divine glory. Become a force the others might respect." He pauses to chuckle to himself. "But, I suppose old habits die hard. Besides," his grin widens, "this is so much more fun!"

He grows a bit more serious. "Be that as it may, you have successfully thwarted my plans for this region. Well-played, adventurers. Well-played. Let it not be said, however, that The Sly One does not have a sense of fairness. I shall concede to you your victory here. You shall no doubt receive accolades for averting a costly little war, and saving hundreds of lives." He pauses and furrows his brow in thought for a moment. "I foresee a great future for you all…." He pauses for a moment, then smiles. "Well, most of you, at any rate. The future is always so unclear, even to us."

He stops pacing in front of the half-ogre's body. He looks down on the half-ogre, and his face grows a bit more stern.

"This one, however, is mine. You shall not harm him further." He looks at you all, and his visage softens just a bit. "He is a dumb brute, but he is useful." He pauses and smiles, as if recalling a pleasant memory. "In fact, he reminds me a bit of my dear brother." He waves his hand and the half-ogre disappears in a flash of light.

He gazes at you all again, and his amused expression slowly turns to one of annoyance.

"You know, if word gets out that I simply let you walk away without exacting some kind of ‘punishment’ on you…well, let’s just say I have a reputation to uphold. So, on that note, enjoy your walk home!"

He waves good-bye, and the world disappears in a brilliant flash of light.

The light fades to black, and your senses slowly begin to return to you. You first realize that you are laying on warm stone. Then you sense that the air is much more warm and humid than you last recall, and smells strongly of vegetation. You hear the sounds of abundant wildlife, and a breeze rustles through trees. As you slowly peel your eyes open and groggily sit up, you see that you are in an empty, square room, approximately 30 feet on each side. The walls, floor and ceiling are all made from rough cut bricks of dark, somewhat greenish stone. There are crevices between several of the stones in the walls, and from one side beams of sunlight pierce the darkness. On the side opposite the sunlight is an arch leading into a hallway. You have all of the equipment you were carrying.

Thus ends the first chapter of this arc. Where are they? How will they get home? And what perils will challenge them for their very lives? It should also be noted that the barbarian and ranger appear to be missing.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

5e Freebie: Kensai

About a week or so ago I had this idea for non-traditional monk traditions for 5e.  Basically, the idea was to have characters who fought bare-handed like monks, but had slightly less regimented backgrounds, and consequently, less "Far Eastern" abilities.

I initially came up with three traditions: the Brawler, the Wrestler, and the Kensai.  I have since expanded the idea into a whole new class, based mainly on the Monk from the PHB, but with some distinct differences.  And in the process, I decided that the Kensai was actually more like a very focused traditional Monk.

So, here is the Kensai Tradition.  It isn't playtested, so you may want to tweak it a bit here and there.  But the idea is that this is a fourth Tradition your Monk character could choose from at 3rd level.  I've also included a few magic items that are geared specifically for traditional Monk characters.

Also, as usually happens when I get a bug like this up my ass, someone else has already done the Kensai as a full class.  Have a look here.  It looks pretty good, honestly.

As always, comments and criticisms are welcome.

    There are warriors who gain total mastery of a specific type of weapon, and then there are the kensai.  A kensai is a monk who has dedicated practically his entire existence to perfecting his ability with a specific type of weapon, to the point of it being a supernatural connection.  Although a kensai can use other, simple weapons, if there is a weapon of his chosen type available, even if it is inferior to other available weapons, he will always choose that one.  At 1st level, the kensai declares his chosen weapon, and he will use this weapon (or another one just like it) until the end of his days.  This weapon can be simple or martial, but cannot be a ranged weapon.  Eventually the kensai will focus his efforts with a specific weapon of this type, often specially commissioned, and always of masterwork quality.  However, a kensai will never use a magic version of his chosen weapon.

Special note:  Any instance where a monk would gain an additional unarmed strike, the kensai can be assumed to make that additional attack with his chosen weapon.

Perfect Form
When taking the kensai tradition at 3rd level, you improve the die-type of your chosen weapon by one step.  From then on, any weapon of this type you use rolls this new die for damage.  For instance, if you choose the longsword, any longsword attacks you hit with will deal 1d10 damage, instead of 1d8.  If you choose a greatsword, any attack will deal 2d8 damage, instead of 2d6.

Ki Weapon
At 6th level you can channel your Ki into your weapon, per the monk’s Ki Empowered Strikes feature.  However, when using your chosen weapon, you also add one half of your Proficiency bonus (rounded up) as a magical bonus to attack and damage.

Soul Weapon
At 11th level, you must choose a specific weapon to focus on.  This weapon becomes soul bound to you; you can never be disarmed, and you will never fumble with this specific weapon.  Additionally, you score a critical hit on a natural roll of 19 or 20 with this weapon.

My Weapon Is My Life
At 17th level your Soul Weapon can be summoned from a distance, and will magically appear in your hand instantly, so long as it is on the same plane of existence.  Additionally, you can spend a Ki point once per round to make a single ranged attack with the weapon, attacking any target within 50 feet of you.

Magic Items for Monks
Monks are not above the use of magic items, though their normal restrictions on weapons and armor apply.  Items such as Rings of Protection, Bracers of Defense, and Girdles of Strength are fairly common for monk characters to use when available. 

Below are four magic items that are specifically intended for monks.

Gauntlets of the Iron Fists
These hand coverings are usually in the form of wraps of sturdy cloth or leather, and radiate moderate magic.  Wrapping one’s hands with these gives the monk a magical bonus of +1 to +3 to hit and damage when making an unarmed strike, depending on the power of the enchantment.

Intercepting Staff
This +1 staff is made from dark cherry wood, and radiates mild magic.  While wielding the staff, a monk may expend a Ki point to activate the staff’s Interception ability for that round.  When this is used, the monk makes an attack roll, the result of which becomes his AC for a single opponent’s next attack.  If the opponent misses, and the monk’s AC roll was higher than the opponent’s AC, the monk strikes with the staff as a free action, automatically dealing 1d8+1 (plus Strength modifier) in damage.

Ki Medallion
This medallion is a small disk or amulet on a golden chain worn around the monk’s neck, and radiates faint magic.  By meditating with the medallion in hand for one hour, the monk can suffuse the medallion with Ki points equal to half of his current maximum rounded up.  These Ki points can be spent just like the monk’s own Ki points.

Ring of Physical Perfection
This plain, onyx ring radiates moderate magic.  A monk wearing such a ring may expend up to five Ki points to heal himself as a full action.  For each Ki expended the monk regains 1d8 hit points up to his maximum.  Once all five Ki points have been used, the monk must meditate on the ring, regaining one Ki point of healing for every half hour of meditation, up to a maximum of five (2.5 hours).

Monday, August 8, 2016

Into the basement

After sorting out the details involving lost character sheets, and missing players, the party picked up outside the main hall of the abandoned monastery. They knew that at least some of the remaining bugbears had fled to that room, and had barricaded themselves in. The party, wishing to avoid being approached from behind while exploring the stairwell leading down they had earlier discovered, decided to turn the tables, as it were, and add to the barricaded doors, ensuring that the bugbears wouldn’t be able to get out if they suddenly wanted to.

Feeling secure in that decision, the party proceeded down the stairs for two levels, all the while enduring an overpowering stench of sewage and decay. They finally came to a large, square room filled with mushrooms of all sizes, shapes, and colors. Some managed to notice shambling forms coming from a cave in on the far wall, and after taking cover, they witnessed four spore-zombie bugbears enter, gather mushrooms and begin to leave.

One of the warlocks, whose patron is an entity connected to fungus and mushrooms, decided to pick a mushroom from a nearby cluster. This caused one of the spore zombies to confront him threateningly. Placing the mushroom back, the warlock reached out with his mind to the zombie, and made a connection with the "master" entity. After a brief discussion communicated through emotions, they came to an agreement that the party could pass as long as they left the room undisturbed. Seeing the wisdom of that choice, the party crossed the room, and exited through a door on the far wall.

The door had not been open in decades, and it lead to a darkened hallway, similarly disused. They noticed there was a faint glow coming from the far end, and the cleric’s light cantrip allowed them to see that the hallway lead to a set of stairs turning right and heading further down.

After some winding halls and stairs, the party came to an archway leading into a room. The room was H-shaped, and in the four points were sarcophaguses. The room itself was iced over and the ice glowed with a ghostly white light. They could feel that room was much colder beyond the archway, and when the paladin finally set foot in the room, the temperature was indeed many degrees colder. This action also caused all four sarcophaguses to open up, and four undead creatures clambered out. They were adorned with aged armor, and all brandished swords, glaring hungrily with glowing eyes.

The cleric and paladin agreed that they were wights, and the party engaged them cautiously. The cleric turned two, and the paladin caused another to cower in fear. The party then turned their sites on the fourth and laid into it. In this manner, they managed to take down all four wights one at a time, with only the barbarian suffering any notable damage, and the paladin having several hit points of life drained.

Looting the room proved very profitable, as the wights had been buried with what was obviously great treasures from their living lives. Now armed with some magical weapons, and a Bag of Tricks, the party prepared to enter the double doors that lay just beyond this chamber, expecting to find whatever power it was that had influenced the hobgoblin generals into starting an unwinnable war with the local communities.

However, real-life time was getting late, so the group parted ways for the night, eager for the next (and last) session of this arc of the campaign, and an answer to their burning questions about who, or what, was behind all of this.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Goblinoid Races and Language

As you may recall, I have been using hobgoblins as my go-to bad guys in this current campaign. One of the ways I made things a bit easier on my players was to state that if they spoke orc, goblin, or bugbear, they could understand what the hobgoblins are saying after listening for a bit. I don't know if this has ever been laid out officially, but below is a quick write-up I did to add some background for this in my world.

The "Goblinoid" language

We have determined that if one can speak orc or goblin, one can, with a bit of practice, understand hobgoblin. This is believed to be because all of them derive from a single root language.

According to scholars, in ancient times there was a single "goblinoid" race. None know what they called themselves, and each subrace that has developed has their own legend which depicts themselves as the root. However, through centuries of warfare, diasporas, and wandering, portions of this master race spread far and wide across the world, developing their own words and manners of speech, and even distinct cultures, based on what and who they encountered.

Today, there are four distinct branches; orcs, goblins, hobgoblins, and bugbears. Each of these subraces are thought to be the result of goblinoids meeting and interbreeding with other races.

Orcs are the result of breeding with humans, and are believed to originate in the southern portion of Ameron, near the dense jungles of The Shades. Those who remained in the south have taken on a green cast to their skin, lending credence to the notion that goblinoids may have had some chameleon-like abilities, and changed colors to match the dominant hues of their surroundings. This is further supported by the orcs of the plains and foothills being brown, and those in the high mountains being gray.

Goblins are believed to be the result of breeding with either gnomes or halflings. However, it is also believed possible that they are simply the descendants of outcasts who were deemed too small and weak to survive.

Hobgoblins, it is believed, were created from interactions with fiends and other outsiders. Their blood-red skin tone, and the fact that there are higher numbers of sorcerers among them indicate they may share this heritage with tieflings.

Bugbears are conjectured by some to possibly be the result of breeding with ogres. However, others believe that bugbears may be the closest to the master race, and are simply those surviving members of this lost race who have fallen into savage barbarism.

The fact that the languages of each of these races is actually just a dialect of the same language lends further evidence to the belief that they all share a common ancestor race.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Christmas in July!

As they do every year at this time, RPGNow is hosting their "Christmas in July" sale, and once more all of my products are included.  So, if you have been thinking about getting any of them, now is your chance to get them at a discount!

Just click the RPGNow link on the sidebar to the right.  Thanks for looking!

Monday, July 18, 2016

The Monastery

After they had freed the young dragon, the party was tired but elated with their recent successes. So, after travelling a bit to get away from the destroyed hobgoblin encampment, they made their own camp in the woods some distance to the north.

Through happenstance, a group of hungry goblins saw what they thought would be easy pickings in a sleeping party, with no one but a lone Halfling on guard. It was a slaughter. Not a goblin left standing. But, at least they weren’t starving anymore.

The next morning the party packed up and headed north, certain that the ancient monastery was somewhere nearby. After the wizard sent her familiar (this time in the form of a hawk) out to scout from above, she confirmed that they were on the right track, and the party headed out with renewed haste.

Not long after, the ranger found the remnants of a road, marked by regular stone, most of which were overgrown with moss, each depicting a strange rune. After a few more hours, they came upon the strangest site they had ever seen.

Carved out of the very side of the mountain was a perfectly circular area, with sheer sides matching the slope of the mountain. The ground inside was perfectly flat and level, and there, in the center, surrounded by the remnants of orchards and gardens, was the fabled monastery.

The party approached with as much caution as they could, and it seemed to work. They discovered that one of the large double-doors was intact and closed, but the other had fallen off its hinges decades ago, but had been propped up where it once had been. Seeing no other entrance, the barbarian and the cleric, both extremely strong, lifted the old door and tossed it aside. For their troubles they each received a thrown javelin.

A melee ensued wherein the party contended with two tough bugbear guards. But, just as they were dispatching these, they discovered that one of the doors off of this main entryway lead to a dining area, where eight more bugbears were having their meal disturbed. A grander melee ensued involving a raging barbarian, a Ball of Flame, and a bugbear-phobic warlock. When all was said and done, the bugbears were overcome, and the room was cleared.

The party proceeded to investigate and found some old, disused “barracks” of sorts. No evidence of traffic indicated that the bugbears had avoided this area for some reason. They also found a long storage area, that lead to an ante-chamber for the main hall. Peaking in the hall, they saw that the bugbears had, oddly enough, set up huts like a real village inside the building.

The party, shaking their heads, explored more of the building, finding the remnants of a library. The books that remained were in varying states of disrepair, and nothing was readable. However, the Halfling warlock cast Mend on a random tome, and came away with a pristine copy of Osgood’s Guide to Flora and Fauna in The Shades. They also found evidence of a lower level that had seen much recent bugbear traffic.

After a tense period where the remaining bugbears discovered their slaughtered compatriots, and seemed to be investigating the rest of the building, the party ventured back to the dining hall to find three guards posted, all nervous. The party made quick work of them, and decided to further investigate the main hall. What they found was the doors shut and barred from within…

The party is nearing the end of this first arc. After some asking for opinions, it was decided that I would continue this campaign for the foreseeable future, so that we alternate between it and my wife’s Dragon Age game. I already have some ideas about where it is going, and what they will face in the future. This is going to be fun!

Friday, July 8, 2016


I decided that my "world" needed a map. So, I did what any self-respecting DM would do, and I pulled out a piece of copy paper and a pencil and went to work.  When I had the basic areas laid out, I added some ink for clarity and style.

The result was a section of the world that includes The Rift (where the final battle with the Elemental Lords took place, and where the Ferrusans hail from). This map includes all of the places my players have been, and some where they might like to go.

After a couple of hours working my Photoshop magic, voila! The Northeastern section of Ameron. Not sure about some of the place names, but I can always edit those later.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

The Gods of Ameron

When I was creating the world of Ameron, where my current 5E campaign is set, I knew I wanted to do something different with the religions. The major event in the recent past was a war between Elemental Lords and the pantheon, and it ended with the Elementals driven back, and several of the gods destroyed.

To shake things up, I borrowed an idea from the Forgotten Realms, and brought in an "Overgod" (known as Ao in the Realms). This Overgod saw this whole fiasco as a failure on the parts of the pantheon of Ameron. So, he dispersed them all into the vast multiverse, and brought in two pantheons from another world, where they were viewed as little more than myths and legends by the majority of the current population.

This allowed me to avoid building an entire pantheon from scratch, and instead, I imported the Greek and Norse pantheons, and mixed them together. Currently, this new pantheon has no clear "leader" and most of the gods are still trying to gather followers. However, I also decided that some of them are not interested in re-creating the history they had on their previous world, and are instead using their godly powers to influence events by communicating secretly.

This all has actually worked out well. While my cleric and paladin characters have chosen specific deities, I have left it up to them how they worship, what their dogma is, etc. It has also allowed me to have other deities step in from the shadows and influence the game without being named or even known of. Without giving anything away (because my players might actually read my blog), the characters may get a few surprises pretty soon.

All in all, this whole experience has been kind of cool. In the past, I would try to lay out my entire world down to as many details as possible, before a single player character steps foot in it. This way I just started with a bare-bones idea, and am adding to it as I go. A lot of the details come in when players ask specific questions, and I have to make something up on the spot. I never thought I'd be good at that, but I find that I actually have to retcon very little as we move forward.

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Red Menace Rises

We had another session of my 5E game yesterday.  One of our regular  players is on vacation.  And since his character in my wife's Dragon Age game is very integral to that story, we decided to go with my game in his absence, since he didn't mind this character being NPC'd so much.

We were also joined by three other players.  This campaign started out as a way to fill in a gap while this couple was on their vacation.  But, they liked the idea so much, that they wanted to join too when they got back.  So, they brought along their 12-year old son, bringing my PC count to 8.  That's a lot for me!

Anyways, I had to engineer a backstory that would bring the two groups together.  So, after some exposition, my current party, which consisted of a human paladin, a human barbarian, a tiefling ranger, a dwarfling warlock, and an elf rogue, were joined by a ferrusan cleric, a half-orc wizard, and a halfling warlock (yes, the majority of my friends don't believe in playing anything remotely "traditional").

They met in the tunnels where the hobgoblins were gathering slaves to be transported to their encampment.  After a brief exchange where they sorted out whose side everyone was on, and found themselves united by the shared concern for freed slaves, they escorted the villagers back to Slovane, and began making plans.  The sheriff informed them that he had a "visitor" that they might be interested in talking to.

The visitor was none other than the hobgoblin deserter whom they had freed earlier.  He had been caught trying to steal food for his journey away from this area.  He bargained once more for his freedom by providing more information that he hadn't thought was important in their first meeting.  It turned out to be just the clue the party was looking for.

But, before they could further their plans, the village came under attack.  The hobgoblins apparently wanted their escaped slaves back.  So, the party gave them a sound and magically flashy thrashing, that resulted in 15 dead hobgoblins, and only a couple of wounded party members.

During all of this RP, the party came to a few realizations.  First, this hobgoblin army was not nearly large enough to accomplish what they seemed to be intending.  There would certainly be casualties on the side of the humans and their neighbors, but in the end, the hobgoblins would most likely be slaughtered.  They also learned that a tribe of orcs from the same mountains were waging a guerrilla war with the hobgoblins, having actually been responsible for freeing the human slaves in the process of freeing their captured brethren.  And finally they found out that the leaders of this army had visited a long-abandoned, and rumored to be haunted, monastery prior to putting this invasion into motion.

The party decided that the best thing they could do was to send messengers to potential allies, and to the large town/city that seemed to be the hobgoblins' eventual target.  Meanwhile, they would journey to the monastery and see if they could cut the head off this snake.  They also agreed to release the hobgoblin, with a few coins and some supplies, and suggested he make his way to the trading outpost to the west, where a certain drow airship captain might be interested in employing him.

As they were preparing to leave, the rancher whose property they would be crossing to get to the mountains, pulled them aside, and told them a tale of a young copper dragon that he had befriended, and who he had struck a bargain with.  The dragon, however, had gone missing, and so he asked the party if they could keep an eye out for him, and see if he was ok.  They agreed, and headed out.

Once they reached the forested foothills, they came across signs of occupation in the middle of the wilderness.  What they found was an encampment of hobgoblins who had captured and caged the young dragon, and were attempting to break its spirit and enslave it for their own uses in their "war."  The party made short work of the slavers, and freed the dragon, who, upon hearing of the attack on the village, immediately flew off to ensure its safety.

At this point, the party decided to make camp in the woods, and make the last part of their journey to the monastery fresh in the morning.

Although the session went well, and everyone had a good time, I found I need to do a few things in preparation for future sessions.  First, I need to actually name my NPC's.  I always forget this detail (mainly because I work from general, hand-written notes, rather than a full-on script).  And I also need to make the combat encounters more challenging.  With this many casters, they are wading through my monsters way too quickly.

Not sure when we will get to play again, but I will endeavor to be more prepared.  After the session, I was inspired by a few more ideas that will (hopefully) make things very interesting.

And just for giggles, I drew a picture
of my son's barbarian character, Theeth.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Expect the unexpected

Second session of my improvised D&D campaign went rather well.  As I stated previously, I had written an entire encounter last week, based on a simple premise and some vague ideas.  It came together nicely.

The party started out on the road after outwitting a magic (cursed?) item, and avoiding having to wade through a hundred skeletons last session.  It was later in the day, so they found a good camp spot and set their watch.  I decided that this was too easy, so I had a crafty ogre invade their camp.  They fought it off and killed it, but not without taking some lumps and shitting their pants.  An added benefit was that afterwards they were REALLY looking forward to reaching the town of Slovane several miles up the road.

They entered the town on horseback, and it was very stereotypical.  As they rode in, they got suspicious and fearful looks, and almost no conversation from the locals.  Pretty soon they were immersed in a mystery involving disappearing persons, a shadowy figure only briefly glimpsed by one of them, and a midnight sneak-thief who circumvented all of their paranoia-inspired preparations.

Interestingly, I hadn’t counted on the preparations, so I had to come up with something on the fly in order to do what I wanted to do.  And this actually turned out to be a really cool bit of world-building as I improvised the NPC reactions.  In the end, I managed to get the party to WANT to follow my railroad, which is really the goal of every DM.  I mean, let’s face it, every adventure is a “railroad” to a certain extent.  Otherwise, why would we write anything past the initial setup?

Anyways, they went to my abandoned temple and did all of the things I was hoping they would do.  And even though I had written a few elements in that I completely forgot about at the table, it all worked out well.  The next session will start with the battered party ambushing a wagon that travels a long tunnel to get to the cave complex.  Not sure how I’m going to work with what they plan to do after that, but I’m sure I will come up with something.  I already have a couple of ideas.

As a funny side-note, my 7-year old son exhibited the sense of humor that he has inherited from both his mom and me.  The party had just killed a carrion crawler, with only two of the party falling victim to the paralyzing poison.  After it was dead, I described that the mound of rotting carcasses and trash was actually its nest, and in it were several eggs.

Without missing a beat, my son’s barbarian licks his lips dramatically and says “Mmmm…scrambled eggs…”

I about fell out of my chair.

Anyways, I think I have some surprises for the party in store.  I know what they are expecting, so this should be fun!

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Well, that was easy

Thanks to a SNAFU with a co-worker who isn't very reliable, I ended up doing backup for phones again yesterday (I was primary on Monday, and backup for two days in a row). Meaning that, when the primary is on break for any reason, I'm sitting there, waiting for the phone to ring. Well, it was a slow day, so the net result was that I had some time on my hands.

During those periods, and while on my own breaks, I managed to get some game prep done. Because, as it turns out, we will be playing my D&D game again this Saturday. I wasn't expecting this to happen, as it was meant to just be a placeholder for when the other couple couldn't show. Turns out, they have plans all weekend, so here we are.

My original intent was to run them through an old AD&D module that I have. But, I didn't really feel like reading through it. So, I took the basic premise, and modified it to fit my slowly developing world.

I wrote out some notes about what happens at the beginning, and the details of the location. Then I downloaded a map (which turned out to be one from Dyson's Dodecahedron his stuff!), printed it out, made a map key on it, and then proceeded to detail all of the areas. It's relatively small, so I was able to detail the whole thing in a very short time.

And just like that, I am ready to go. I need to fill in a couple of details about the enemies they will (most likely) face, but other than that, it's all done.

I have to say, I may not be as bad at this DM thing as I thought I was.

Monday, June 6, 2016

Drow Flying Ships

So, I recently ran a session of 5E, and had a great time. I’m using the “campaign” as a testing ground for some ideas that have been percolating for various periods of time in my overstuffed brain. Among these are a couple of new races (one of which actually got used), flying ships, and an alternate way of viewing Drow culture. These last two elements are tied together, and provided some really cool elements in my session.

One of my players was curious as to how the ships achieved flight (these are standard water ships that levitate, and are propelled by wind currents). I gave him a vague answer along the lines of “I don’t have the details worked out, but it has something to do with a Drow’s innate ability to levitate.” Well, I finally sat down and wrote my thoughts out. I present them below for your praise, criticism, or indifference.

The Drow and their Flying Ships

When the Drow lived almost exclusively in the underdark, they mined a metal known as adamantite. This metal was as strong as forged steel, but half the weight. It also had the peculiar property of being highly susceptible to magic, and adamantite items could retain minor magical properties without the lengthy and expensive process of enchantment. The downside was that adamantite breaks down rather quickly under direct sunlight. Even moonlight has a deteriorating effect on the metal. As such, items often disintegrated after a few weeks of exposure to the sun. This was not normally a problem for the Drow, many of whom would live for centuries without ever seeing the surface. However, that all changed when the Elemental War destroyed much of their home realm.

The Drow of today are splintered into three factions. The Skybourne are those who have embraced the destruction of their dark homelands as a sign of change, and have moved into the light of the surface, and are attempting to integrate themselves with the races there. They are most known for their flying ships, which is an extension of their desire to embrace the long-forgotten sun in all ways. However, in order to achieve this they are, ironically, dependent to an extent on the second faction of Drow, the Deep Elves.

Although they no longer bare surface-dwellers the pure black hatred fomented by Lloth for generations (though they are slow to trust surface elves in many cases), these Drow refuse to adapt to the sun, and have instead moved deeper into the underdark, away from the regions of elemental destruction. There they live much as they had in centuries past, though struggling to find purpose in the absence of their deceased matron deity. However, they have begun openly trading with small sectors of the surface world, and many have found a lucrative income in supplying the Skybourne with shipments of adamantite to fuel their flying ships.

The third faction is much more elusive, and really only exists in second-hand accounts and rumors. Deemed the “Lost Elves,” these Drow have retreated even further into the underdark, and the speculation among the Deep Elves is that they have fallen into barbarism after the collapse of their societies with the passing of Lloth. Some among the Skybourne worry that the Lost will one day rise up and bring war to the underdark in an attempt to reassert their dominance. The Deep Elves are vigilant against this, but their numbers are relatively few.

The Adamantite Engine
Skybourne ships are propelled by mechanisms infused with magic, and keyed to the Drow’s innate levitation ability. Essentially, the Engine becomes an extension of the Drow pilot’s levitate ability, allowing him or her to control the vertical axis of the ship through a combination of willpower and a steering mechanism. To protect it from deterioration, the Engine is housed in an air-tight casing that is filled with a gaseous mist, also mined from the underdark. In this manner, an Adamantite Engine can last for decades without the need for replacement. The magical properties do cause some deterioration on the metal, but only at a minute fraction of the rate to which they would be subject under the sun.

The biggest danger to an Adamantite Engine is if the casing is damaged. Release of the surrounding gases can cause the magic to go awry, and if the control of the ship’s levitation is not closely monitored, the ship can either rise at a rapid rate, or plummet towards the ground. Should the casing become damaged enough that the engine is exposed to sunlight, the engine will begin to deteriorate rapidly. If the casing can be repaired in time, the damage can be minimized, only shaving a few years off of the life of the mechanisms.

Monday, May 23, 2016

A Question of Frontiers

My brain suddenly had this weird idea, but it requires a bit of forethought. Mainly in answering a single question: How tied to their published settings are the old TSR (and others from the same era) games?

Mainly, for now, I am wondering if it would be acceptable to play Star Frontiers using a completely new setting, with all-new races, governmental entities, etc.? Or is the game so tied with the UFP setting (even just in the minds of players), that it would just feel “wrong” to change things up?

I mean, I’m pretty sure it would be easy enough to do from a technical standpoint. But, would players buy a game “Inspired by TSR’s classic game Science Fiction Adventure” even though it had no Yzirians, Dralasites, or Vrusk, and your big bad enemies were something other than the Sathar.

Of course, that also begs the question of whether such an effort would be worth it due to the system itself. I, personally, love the system (a nice, succinct percentage-based one), but I have heard mumblings and rumblings about how “limited” or “rudimentary” it is.

I dunno, with the old OGL (which allowed me to make Mutants & Marvels), I might just put something together and see what happens. I’ve been looking for a new RPG project to sink my teeth into, and this may be a fun diversion.

Then again, I'd be willing to bet someone is already doing it...

Monday, May 16, 2016

And I ran…

…a D&D game! And it was a success. That’s a nice relief for me, as it has literally been years since I ran anything, and I get self-conscious about whether I can do it anymore.

Last week I tried to introduce my son to D&D through the Moldvay Basic rules. I had planned to run him through The Keep on the Borderlands. Well, he made it through character creation no problem. But about two minutes into describing the setup, he got bored. “Too much talking” he said. I was a bit disappointed, but I suppose I should have foreseen that.

Anyways, our regular gaming group is down a couple of people. One of the couples is on vacation in Greece (so envious!). Unfortunately, they are the ones who bring their son, who my son plays with. So, when I got the remaining people to agree to a short-term game, I invited both my kids to join.

My 13-year old daughter is an old hand at 5E by this point. In fact, out of everyone in the game yesterday, she has the most experience with the system. And I figured my son might be a little more into it if there were other players. So, we sat down and everyone made characters, while I helped my son make his. He ended up wanting to be a human barbarian with a greataxe, my daughter is a tiefling ranger, my wife is a human paladin, one guy is a dwarfling warlock, and the other is an elven rogue. Not a bad party.

Over the course of the afternoon they helped the drow crew of the flying ship they were on fend off a hobgoblin sky-pirate attack, makes some deals at the trading outpost, narrowly avoid two allosauruses in the forest, and run a gauntlet of skeletons in order to take hold of the necklace that was controlling them, thus freeing the tortured soul of the crucified mage from his magical prison.

All-in-all, everyone had a good time. My son kept up through the pirates, but his attention wandered, and soon he was just sitting there watching YouTube on his iPod, while I NPC’d his character for him. Which was fine because there wasn't much combat at that point (though he did save his sister's life with a well-timed Dex roll as she was almost knocked off of her horse in front of him).

Not sure if/when we will get to play this again, but it was nice to be in charge, and to cooperatively create the story with my players. Lots of little details came out of the play itself, and my vague world got that much more focused. And that’s how I like things.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Hey, kid…wanna score some XP?

So, my 7-year old son has become obsessed with my 1990 copy of the Milton Bradley release of Hero Quest. I started him off a while back on it (at his request) by taking him through the main quest book, with the intention of going through all of that, then digging out the two expansions that were released before the game went out of print. Well, things have changed. And actually, for the better.

You see, my wife and I have a gaming group of other parents who have all been gaming together for several years now. We went through a 6-year campaign using 3.5, which ended last summer. We have since moved into Dragon Age, being run by my wife. All that time my son, and usually my stepdaughter when she was not with her dad that weekend, would be hanging out in basically a gamer environment.

He would normally play video games with the other kids, and sometimes they would even play with Nerf guns and other toys. But recently, he had me get out HQ for him, and he has been trying to play it with the other boy who is almost as consistently there as he is. The problem is, the other kid, just like my step-daughter is now 13. And the age gap sometimes causes problems. In a nutshell, I’m the only one who will consistently play HQ with him now.

However, I recently discovered that, during those few times he managed to get the other boy to play, my son would “DM” the game. And not only that, but he would do it without a script. He just placed doors, objects, and monsters where he liked as the heroes would venture through, and eventually, he would just put a “big bad” in a final room, and that would be it. I was kind of amazed.

As imaginative as I was at his age, I’m not sure I would have been that proactive. Of course, at his age (in 1977), I lived in Germany, and had no friends, let alone anyone who would be willing to expose me to anything resembling D&D, which was still pretty much in its infancy anyways. So the idea of making up adventures and rolling dice was as foreign to me as the internet was at the time.

Anyways, this has me thinking. One of the bloggers I follow (Timothy Brannon of The Other Side blog) often mentions introducing his son to D&D at 7 years old. I’m thinking maybe it’s time. I have all of the basic and Expert rulebooks, and several old modules. I’d probably go with the B/X rules, just for my own nostalgia (and because my Expert Rulebook is autographed by Dave Cook himself). Heck, I might even throw in some of my own Basic Arcana rules.

If it works out, I’ll be sure to write about it here.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Taking Stock: What does it all mean?

So, I’ve taken a look at all of my stuff, and I have come to the conclusion that I may be focusing too much on creating game content, and not focusing enough on gaming content. What I mean is that I am writing rules for play, without writing any actual play time material. In short, I think maybe I should try my hand at writing adventures.

And not only adventures for my own games, but for other games out there. Right now I am in love with 5E. And with the DM’s Guild rules, I could write some of those adventures I have run in the past, and ones I have imagined running, and have a built-in audience who might actually enjoy them.

I think my hesitance to write adventures stems from my long-standing tradition of making my own stuff up. As a GM I have almost always run games based on my own idea. I think I may have only run about two published modules in my life.

I own plenty of published adventures, for lots of game systems and genres. And I have been a player in many game based on such modules. But I’ve never really tried my hand at actually just writing a module. So, I’ll probably start there.

The other thing I might try to do is to stop trying to “re-invent the wheel.” I mean, take Mutants & Marvels. Other than the initial wonky idea of updating the old MSH game, there was no reason for me to do it. There are dozens of supers games out there, allowing for every taste and sensibility in gaming styles. To be honest, the gaming world didn’t (and probably doesn’t) need another one.

I might also try collaborating with others occasionally. So far all of my stuff has been on my own, with input from a few friends. Doing something truly collaborative might be fun. It would certainly relieve some of the pressure of being a one-man-show.

I’d also love to be able to write for an established company. So, if any of those are listening, consider my self-published library a CV of sorts.

So, anyone got any thoughts, opinions, or ideas?

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Taking Stock, part II: The Odds & Ends

Continuing to take stock of my little library of self-published gaming material, here are some of the odd little projects that I did mainly for the enjoyment of doing.

Hero’s Journey
This one actually started off as my effort to create my own retro-clone. But, it quickly morphed into something else, and probably has more “original” ideas than Basic Arcana does. Hero’s Journey is, more-or-less, a complete RPG system. It’s very generic, and has no setting material at all. The Monster section is just a group of tables, rather than the MM-style write ups that I originally intended.

Over all, I like this thing. And I would love to be able to flesh it out, and help it grow. But, I think the market is flush with retro-clones now, so interest would probably be pretty low.

Oddly enough, I saw that someone published a game called The Hero’s Journey that is based on Swords & Wizardry. I’m curious what that’s all about, actually.

One day I had the brilliant idea of doing my own fanzine for RPG’s. The idea was that each issue would have a specific theme and genre, and would contain a few articles pertaining to that, as well as a piece of original fiction, an adventure or other game-supplement, and hopefully some cool artwork.

I managed to churn out two issues before the dismal sales numbers made me re-think the whole idea. The first was focused on the Underdark, as it could be presented in “basic” games. The second was all about military science fiction. I’m proud of both issues, and I think I did some damn fine writing in there. But, they just didn’t catch on, so Zine-O-Morph will probably remain shelved for good.

Attack of the Furryons!
What can I say other than this was a little bit of whimsy that caught some traction and somehow got finished. All of the artwork is public domain, and the rules aren’t even all that original. I would have loved to play this with my son. But, alas, he’s a bit old, and is more into video games than physical games (though we still occasionally dip into HeroQuest). Honestly, the fact that a few people have bought this surprises me. Especially with the sheer amount of similar products available.

Fists & Fury
Like Furryons!, this is another bit of whimsy that managed to get completed. Originally intended as a nod to The Fantasy Trip’s Melee game, but with a martial arts twist, Fists & Fury takes a lot of inspiration for wuxia cinema and from my favorite fighting game series, Street Fighter. I think it’s a pretty slick little system, and would love to maybe expand it into something bigger. But, there are some roadblocks to that. Regardless, it was a fun exercise in creativity.

Next time: What does it all mean?

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Taking Stock, part I: My Big Three

As most of you know, I fancy myself some kind of self-publisher of games. I’ve enjoyed a bit of success here and there, and I love it. But something makes me wonder if it’s all worthwhile. In an effort to get a clear picture of where my efforts have been and where they are (or should be) going, I’m going to go through all of my products at RPGNow one-by-one, and assess their intrinsic value from my perspective. Feel free to drop in your own comments.

Note: I'm including links, just in case this piques anyone's interest.

Basic Arcana
A few years ago I became fascinated by the OSR movement. I began my RPG life with Moldvay’s Basic Box back in 1981 or so. And that version of D&D has always held a special place in my heart. After finding an internet forum devoted to OSR games and gaming, I decided to try my hand at writing something compatible with the Moldvay version. The result was called Basic Arcana.

Conceived as a “basic” variation of the 1E Unearthed Arcana, BA was meant to present some optional rules and variations to the old Basic games and their clones. After I had gotten about halfway through writing it, I discovered that I was doing nothing really new or innovative, but I persevered until I had it done. I peppered it with illustrations from my own DeviantArt page, and the public domain, and put it out there.

The response was better than I really expected. It got a decent amount of movement initially (helping almost fund an entire gaming Con that year), and it still performs regularly, selling 1-3+ copies every month. All-in-all, I like the product, and wish I could see it in use. But, like many of my products, it’s just something I wrote based on my experiences and preferences, and I’ll probably never get the chance to play with it myself.

Life of Rage
I am a self-confessed orc-o-phile. Orcs are my favorite fantasy race, and I have a soft spot for almost every iteration of them (the Warcraft Orc being my favorite). I had conceived of this game ages ago, with the basic premise of “what if the players were the orcs?” It started out with having an original, and mostly unique system. But then I got the idea of making it an OSR product. So, I layered all of my original content over the basic rules, refined it as much as I could, and put it out there.

Like Basic Arcana before it, Life of Rage OSR has always done somewhat well. Though it didn’t sell as well as BA at first, it has settled into the same monthly performance of 1-3 units. However, LoR also has a few supplements to attach, including Half-Orc Sorcerer, and Qruzlat (orcish martial arts). You can even get it all in a Bundle.

I was working on a more complete version, which included a “Monster Manual” type section, as well as some other bits and pieces. That is actually mostly done. However, like all of my projects, one of the biggest hurdles is artwork. And I can’t bring myself to release a “complete” version without some cool, original artwork. I may end up working on that myself, since commissioning others with more talent costs money that I just don’t have.

Mutants & Marvels
Initially, this game was envisioned as simply putting the old Marvel® RPG (FASERIP) game to the d20 mechanic. It was started as a personal project, with no intention to share it with anyone other than a few friends who showed interest. But, after some encouragement, I went all out with it.

This is my big one, really. At least, it’s the one I’ve put the most into, and got the most feedback on during production. M&M has had two versions. The original version had a lot of issues, and with the help of a few very keen testers, I made a lot of changes and additions, as well as added some extra content that I felt needed to be in there. The second version is a MUCH better game, I feel.

M&M seems pretty popular, if the sales numbers are any indication. And the Facebook page gets regular new likes. I’ve tried to get that going as a place to discuss the game, but haven’t seen a lot of action on that front. Mainly, it’s just a place for me to post (infrequent) news, and a few freebies I come up with.

I do have a pretty bold idea for a new supplement, and I will probably be working on that in the near future. I’m also looking at expanding the “bare-bones” setting that I included in the rulebook into its own supplement. And finally, I’m considering running a session or two at a convention in the near future.

Next time:  The Odds & Ends

Thursday, March 10, 2016

Gary Con Thoughts – Part II

First of all, let me get this out of the way. The 2nd trailer for Captain America: Civil War.


If you haven’t seen it, do so.

Speaking of Marvel, let me talk about one of the better experiences I had at Gary Con. A friend of mine, Shane Bradley, ran an awesome 2-part game of Marvel Heroic RPG (Margaret Weis Productions), where we were the Avengers fighting Ultron. The plot followed pretty close to the movie, which actually made things a lot easier. It was basically two really big superhero rumbles, and they totally rocked.

When I signed up for it, I told Shane that I was interested in playing Captain America. Because he’s my absolute favorite superhero. He said his nephew had already called dibs at the time, so I opted for Thor instead. I prepared for the game by watching the entire second season of Avengers Assemble. I felt pretty well-prepared to toss Mjolnir and archaic quips around with gusto.

When I got to the table, I dug out the Thor data sheet, but I only found the Jane Foster version of Thor (turned out I had mistaken the real Thor’s sheet for a second part of JF’s). I had just started reading the graphic novel of her first arc, so I was totally cool with it and dug in. The guy next to me at the table was just as new to the game as I was, and he had Cap. He offered to trade, but I declined. I had set my sights on Thor and was committed to him…er, her.

The game itself was very new to me. I had bought the core rule book when if first came out because it was Marvel, and it was pretty. But I couldn’t wrap my head around the mechanics, so I just slid it into my shelf next to my other supers games. Turns out, once I got going with it, the mechanics are pretty sweet. Probably not my favorite system for supers, but I still had a lot of fun with it. And that’s basically the only benchmark I have as to whether a game is “good” or not.

Our team was a pretty eclectic mix of Marvel characters. Half of them (in both sessions) were mutants, and at any given time there were only 2-3 actual Avengers on the team (well, what I consider actual Avengers). But we made it work, and we had a blast beating Ultron and his drones into submission.

All in all, if you like supers games, I highly recommend checking out this game. It could totally be your cup of tea.

My other great experience was actually an unscheduled pick-up game. My wife was playing Firefly Friday night (which, incidentally, uses the same system as the Marvel game I played. At the time, I had nothing scheduled, mainly due to the Adventurer’s League games ending so quickly. However, the guy at the next table over was setting up for an AD&D 1E game of “Baba Yaga’s Hut” and it turned out he had an opening. So, I sat down, pulled out my dice, and away we went.

That was a really fun game. The DM was very animated and enthusiastic, and really made the game come alive. I had a great time playing my dwarf cleric, and laughed out loud when he was able to shrug off the Death Knight’s fireball (Ring of Fire Resistance). The adventure was a good blend of mystery, puzzles, and action. I don’t think anyone walked away unhappy with the adventure.

So, that’s pretty much it for another Gary Con. This was my third, and we will probably go again next year. But for now, I am setting my sights on Gamehole Con here in Madison. I might actually run something!

Monday, March 7, 2016

Gary Con Thoughts, Part I

This past weekend was Gary Con, as many people already know. We arrived Thursday night, ready to jump into gaming Friday morning. After a nice dinner with friends, we had a hiccup during check in at the hotel which created some negative financial consequences we will be dealing with this week. But we got to our room, which was decent, if a bit overpriced, and settled in.

Thursday morning my daughter and I didn’t actually have a game scheduled until 10:00. My wife was running her first Dragon Age game at 8:00, so the kid and I just wandered around, getting the lay of the land, and checking out the dealer room. The kid is a budding artist, and was completely enthralled by the cool artwork. And she had a long, animated conversation with Terry Pavlet, who is a helluva guy. We ended up buying a print from him for her before leaving on Sunday.

Anyways, much of my scheduled gaming was in the Adventurer’s League games, leading up to the Curse of Strahd release. I readily admit to not being all that big of a fan of Ravenloft. Horror just isn’t my thing, personally. But I am aware of what it is, and who Strahd is (I read Knight of the Black Rose, because I love Lord Soth). Still, it didn’t dawn on me the purpose of these little adventures until the second to last one.

Still, I had fun playing in them with my Dragonborn Paladin. Met some interesting players, and saw some cool characters and concepts (though overall, there seemed to be a lot of rogues). However, I couldn’t help but wonder if maybe these could have been done better.

Essentially, each episode was scheduled for a 2-hour slot. But, none of mine except the very last one lasted that long. Most of them were done in an hour or less. And that was with a lot of table-talk, and interruptions. And the DMs seemed to range in their ability to adapt to players going off-script. It didn’t happen often, and for the most part they kept things on track. But there was at least one instance where the players did something unexpected, and caused the whole adventure to get cut short, though we still succeeded in reaching the objective.

It was basically a missed opportunity, and I immediately saw how I would have handled it differently, in order to give the party the fight they were supposed to have without any leaps in logic. But, it turned out ok in the end. Honestly, my only complaint was that I think all five episodes of the initial arc could have been done in one, 4-hour sitting. Which is pretty much the standard for Con games. But I do understand the reasoning behind handling them this way.

Outside of those adventures, I did have a lot of fun with other games. I’ll talk more about those later. So, overall it was a fun Con, despite some personal hiccups that were both expected and unexpected.

Monday, February 1, 2016

Gary Con 2016

Hello all!  Long time no see.  Been busy with real world issue lately, and haven’t had much time to even think about gaming stuff except for the current Dragon Age campaign.  That’s going nicely.  Admittedly, some nights I have a hard time focusing, and I’m not always thrilled with the character I chose to play.  But the story is fun, so it’s all good.

Anyways, what I have done lately is registered for games at Gary Con.  In just over a month, I will be spending a large portion of a 72-hour period playing various RPG’s.  Last year at Gamehole, I got my first taste of the Adventurer’s League, and what that entails.  At Gary Con this year, I decided to take that one step further, and try playing the same character through an entire story-arc, which is 5 separate adventures.

Once more my wife is running several games.  She is running three Dragon Age games, along with a FATE Core game where the characters are 8-bit video game characters.  This one is geared for younger players, which is a niche that we found lacking at Gamehole.  My 13-year old daughter will be in on that, as well the afore-mentioned AL games with me.

This year I am also taking part in a 2-part story run by a friend of mine, using the Marvel Heroic RPG (Margaret Weis Prod.).  He gave me an advance choice on characters.  His nephew might show up, and he has dibs on Captain America.  Cap is my favorite, but if he’s not available I will be playing Thor.  The adventure involves Ultron, so verily, it shall be a grand adventure worthy of the son of Odin!

Now, while I’m sure the venue will be as awesome as always (they’ve moved to a larger facility this year), the registration process left a lot to be desired.  Aside from the hackers who tried to cheat the system, the way the whole registration process worked was clunky.  Of course, much of that was tainted by me having to try to juggle two schedules (mine and my daughter’s) at the same time.  Because I bought her ticket under my account, I basically had to register both of us simultaneously.  This often meant grabbing two tickets per game for several games.

But, that stress is over now, so I can sit back, and wait giddily for March to roll around.  Anyone else going to Lake Geneva next month?

Edit:  Fixed that hilarious typo in the title.  :D