Tuesday, December 4, 2018

Games You Probably Haven't Heard Of

"Halflings and the Hive" is a work by Beckett Warren and Todd Jakubisin presented at the local convention GenghisCon. It is proclaimed to be a "system-agnostic RPG adventure" on the cover. Knowing Beckett's propensity for the DCC system, he runs one every week at his game and dorkdom shop of Weird Realms,  it doesn't take a brain surgeon to figure out which set of rules the abbreviations work best with.  Mister Jakubisin is no slacker himself, I know him for his Pests tabletop game but I am sure that he has other products out as well.



So picture a setting where halflings are the dominant PCs of interest and a hive of Buzzbees are looking to infect undead flesh as host material for their Queen's brood. In a pinch living flesh will do for the Buzzbee larvae. In the town itself, a place called Cerwin, there of course shadowy cults, The Blood Cult and Her Majesty's Holy Hive. Races covered in the text include Corrupt Halflings, koalas, pandas, and a few bears-- there are others but no one cares after reading "koala." Characters strive to cope with and possibly foil the ne'er-do-wells of the scenario.

In this fanzine style pamphlet, the maps, cards for random encounters, and forms designed to keep track of play make up about half of the work. The other half is some overarching narrative of the scenario and a lot of detail for the NPCs and factions. Complete with the decent artwork, maybe done by Jakobisin, the twenty pages, plus front and back covers gives a lot of bang for the buck to the reader. The only thing I have found to complain about here is a lack of a proper title page and Beckett's, just guessing, overuse of the word "fucking" as an adjective in the writing. I am a relic from another time when it comes to only using swearing in dialog though so what the hell do I know?


Beckett making a gameday happen at a local convention.
Overall, I'd rate this work a King Kong on a scale of Smurf to Godzilla.

Sunday, December 2, 2018

No Small Step


Image may contain: night and skySo if you, seated reader, have been reading my inane babbling here at this blog for a while, you know that I am planning on releasing a major Spacers(TM) work and I have been doing so for quite some time. The news on that is that I gone from being a serious amateur astronomer back to being an RPG writer again. That means that I feel that I have enough information on some of the more recent news about stars and planets from such sources as the Kepler telescope and the Wide-Angle Search for Planets (WASP), to start working on the role-playing stuff for my sci-fi setting to end all sci-fi settings.

And actually it is not a setting, it's settings. If you've played in more than one Spacers sessions, you noticed that I change up the tone and milieu each game. I suppose as a GM I am used to having to change gears to explore whatever is being talked about from one sci-fi movie to the next. Its like five settings. It may be more, because I am working them one at a time and not reading ahead. Just working with what I thought was cool four years ago because I was pretty clever back then, as well as now and even better read and viewed. So whatever deconstruction that I did I'll just play a technical writer to my ealerier inspired self. Hey it's working, don't judge.
Image may contain: 1 personSo remembering my overall story lines, the campaign material goes from a "close orbit saga" where the Earth and Moon are looking at Mars. I am hoping for a Space 1999 meets "Johnny Mnemonic" feel. There is always room for 2001: ASO and some Road Warrior worked in. Then there is the solar system-wide setting it gets more than a little retro because that was my first Spacers line of scenarios. Then there is the slower-than-light, maybe not, colonization period where creature feature Alien, Aliens, and merchandising as well as works about colonization of distant planets and remote biospheres like Solaris or a new film by DUST productions Prospect. For the Star Trek, Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers, Starship Troopers set of mind that I get into I work in a FTL and phaser-shooting mega-vessels with national entities spanning lightyears, complete with naval-like dynamics and alien species used as metaphors for modes of behavior. Finally I get into "high sci-fi" or spherical fantasy, where Star Wars, Farscape, Larry Niven's "Known Space" works, and Flash Gordon serials occur.

Okay enough yapping. Back to the sub-light setting... .




Monday, November 26, 2018

Con Tales like Jet Trails

As the ever-festive wintry mix of November slogs in December, it's been quite a time. A lot of it has been "meh" to awful. This was because of too much of a good thing, partying, and some really poor health in general.

Carnage was an up and down thing. I reaffirmed some pretty long-term relationships through the room parties. We hung with CCrabb, Rags, Mister Dresser, and Matt at Scott and Petra's den of villainy and expensive drink and food. There we met many of the characters of Dark Phoenix fame, the Kruppa not being the least of them, and had a good time. The minute we got back to our room though some newcomer, if not two of them, would turn into a jerk.  And it involved the jerks plying Pery, who I still think claims me as her husband, with too much alcohol, declaring their dislike of me and making passes at her. After being invited to leave my own room, one telling me "I am Carnage. You have no say here." I had to strong-arm both of them out on Thursday night/Friday morning. A cop would appear on the scene after repeated hotel security visits, he took my side and that should have ended the story. Pery would miss her event on Friday because of a crippling case of mystery flu and I'd play Civilization III all day. Friends would swing by for a night cap and close out the day nicely. On Saturday night the second jerk from Thursday was invited back because he is a childhood friend of one of our long-term friends, and he went into asshole mode within minutes in front of other people this time. He would end up falling asleep in a chair after showing his nipple and blowing kisses at Pery whenever he could. Pery would insist on a last bit of partying at 6am on that now Sunday AM at another locale. I insisted we let Mr. Asshole sleep and if he woke up all by himself in a warm and cozy room he could call hotel security for a rescue since he'd been so comfortable in MY room all weekend already. We got to bed around 8:30am in a finally empty room. Check out was 11am, we were packed at 10:52. Boy the drive to Syracuse was hell, but the pizza in New York soothed both of our under-slept souls.

While I have been ill for most of November, causing me to cut into my savings to pay bills and whatnot, Wobble is in the post production phase of things. This is the fun part of the hobby for me. I get to talk to other creative sorts, editors and illustrators, about the work. I get a bit of feedback from proof readers. I have even been sketching diagram thingies that I hope can be polished up before the final formatting.

Yesterday, I shopped small and local like a fiend. I also got to be a local "game designer" running a quick kill Crawlspace game at the same event. A little something called Genghis Con which is organized by Cleveland artists and publishers every year. This year Beckett, of Beckett fame, opened a side room for local game makers and musician techno sorts. I had expected a table next to the Weird Realms stand in a crowded dealer room, what was there was a mini-convention all on its own. There were at three tables with games going on, when I was able to corral three people that had expressed interest in Crawlspace plus one more experienced role-player whom I think was just passing by. George, Matt the Makker, along with Kelsey and Chris helped my work through my first running of Crawlpace's "Places in Space". The run time was 51 minutes, plus another 30 for Character creation and the Opening scene.
While I had the Act structure and differing random fates worked out for each of the Characters, it is a horror movie of a scenario, these Players helped me flesh out the module by assigning cop archetypes to their LEO Roles during the course of play. I think this was the best test play that I have had to date.  After the session, I had meant to get back to two vendors in main dealer's hall, but a H/A, part of my on-going health drama, was erupting. A good thing though because I had spent 200$ plus already. Still need to find those guys around town. I want those products.

The celebrity that I know is John G of Shiner Comics

"Places in Space" Beta Testing in progress
Pery arrived home from a trip to her family's home abode a couple of hours afterwards. We caught up a bit. I was able to present her with homecoming gifts (a mug, a bandana, and a comic book) from Genghis Con, before the headache would send me to bed early. Oh yeah, the space for the local convention had a Visitor sign in book in the bathroom. So all in all, still a good month with plenty of hilarity.

Friday, November 23, 2018

Parts of a Toolbox, w/o Being a Tool

As a GM, I learned a long time ago that writing twenty plus pages of notes for every type of game of that I run before I ever sat down to compose a scenario is not only helpful it’s kind of a thrill just for me alone. I have the vanity that someday each project will be published and readers around the globe will see how deep and clever a mythpoet I really am. Now when I sit down at the table, it took me a little longer to learn that using my voice to only fill in gaps around the players’ story is pretty essential. This is for anything from a party of tomb-robbing medieval “adventures” dealing with the swamps of doom or a task force of FBI agents dealing with a group of Chinese-funded hackers that happen to be vampires. Whatever the deal is, let the promo for the adventure set the premise and then let the Players set the tone and depths. I should just be ready for them.
Now I am not advocating that a GM always tend towards a sandbox approach to things. Pacing tends to be the most important tool in my toolbox when it comes times for the event. With a new group, or an impromptu one such as at a convention, the GM should be building the paradigm at the start and by the end of the session, they should mostly interpreting player-driven situations and explaining their rule usage. Established gaming gangs often spend the beginning of a session exploring their Characters and then around the ¾ mark of time, I have to provide a quick dilemma to be overcome or not to set the basis for the next sit down. Most GMs with established campaigns, time frames for adventures may not be specified so reading the Players and their own energy levels is gauge of when the ¾ mark is, so don’t be a clock watcher unless necessary.

Races and Racism
Get over it. When it comes to fantasy role-playing, as in dealing with the fantastical not just variants of Tolkien tropes but entering the unreal into any sort of setting, there is the expectation of the Players being able to come across the alien. By alien, I mean that which is foreign or different from their own point of view. Hopefully this brings goosebumps to the joy center of their imagination first. And then whether they fall into a discourse of anthropological style study of the world created by the GM or they decide to hit it with their war hammer is the point of the game. The point of the game not the problem with it.
If a GM cannot separate their elves from Appalachian hillbillies or Mongolian plateau residents in their head, they need to spend some researching those cultures. This sort of activity has always help me design human cultures, which is what they are, for whatever world I am playing with then get me onto designing something possibly creative about the species that I am calling elves. Even if these elves are 99% human-like, so are chimpanzees in our real world and they are very exotic to anybody encountering them. There should be something different about them, if the GM is doing this for fun.
Now the Player having expectations of what fantasy folk should be like should be expected. They aren’t sitting down at a table to be a part of band of dwarven warriors lead by a gnome magician to reclaim a lost wonder works forge from a tangle of trolls and a fire giant overlord because they haven’t read Terry Brooks books. Now if the players are all about, “my dwarf has a Scottish accent.” I as a GM like shake things ups. For fun I might give everything Korean names, and flat out use Confucianism and Buddhism as the dominant forms of spiritualism among the dwarves and gnome separate yet similar communities after the game starts. Since I do my own research, I just happen to have a pocket-sized notebook of notes from working with a K-Pop fan for years, I don’t need an “oriental adventures” source book and come up with pointlessly complicated Classes and some nonexistent standin culture instead focusing on the universal of dynamics of the quest. The archetypes of the Warrior, Wizard, or Rogue all work just fine regardless of rules system that one is playing with. If the player can’t get over it, oh well. I one time had a batch of dudes have a real problem with playing a campaign essentially set in northern Africa circa 570 AD. I heard their “Nordic-Celtic” campaign died on the vine after an introduction game when D&D 4th Edition came out-- they play collectible card games now at the coffee shop we used to hang out at. Good for them. Most of the players will become immersed or play the fish-out-of-water trope.

Getting the Chance to Talk
As role-playing is a social interaction, Gming can be a reclusive pursuit getting the party together. It does make things move along nicely without forcing the point though. The outsider role works for players great in role-playing, even when as a GM I am not mixing things up. It gives me a chance to do expository based off of my grocery bag full of details I have in my head without doing the railroad-y thing. Scenery not stealing the scene is a great tool towards helping a narrative come together. Heck, I am the scenario author. Even DM GMs should have some narrative as part of their game session, it helps put their personal mark to their scenario despite of how free-form or patterned it is. Once again being prepared is important.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Ain't that a Kick in the Head

 

Wow. At the website where I sell my PDFs I am now a double-barrel "Copper Best Seller." I am very proud of this not because of the sales but because of the products that have that badge attached to them. One is my New Khazan title which is my sphere fantasy for the Tunnels &Trolls rules system. Now that doesn't surprise me. T&T is a brand name which sells solid and only gathers more readers as people start looking for stuff to read as well as play. 9KW (my own abbreviation for New Khazan) was easy for me to write. I was adapting my passion for space opera with my love of the Flying Buffalo Incorporated-owned (FBI) rules system written by Ken St Andre. So when it sold well and quickly, I bought pizza and beer with the profits and kept on writing-- A behavior which continues to this day, just not as often with said item's moneys. 

The second is my TAG Spacers product. Lordheads know, I did not know any one besides old friends from space RPG chatroom days had ever heard of it let alone read this one. It was written before 9KW, actually being typed on an old fashioned typewriter that my Grampa had given me to be photocopied, folded in half, and mailed to people back in the 90s. I dressed it up a bit when Pery Publishing first started and we released the "new and improved" version. After a few sales over the opening month, nobody ever seemed to talk about it. Running it at conventions had enthusiastic players that'd buy a copy a few weeks later, then I'd never hear from them again. I felt I had produced a flop, but I knew the system worked just fine. So I concentrated on writing T&T stuff.

There have been signs though that people have been buying it. Besides the itemized sale reports, where it was always hidden beneath all the new and shinier pieces buying my rewards that week, folks would say things. Indeed the author of a bootleg version 9KW for a certain Outlaw Press, done without my permission of course but in the T&T crowd a bit of piracy is forgiven if the person doing it apologizes and is nice when foiled, told me, "The copy I had of your New Khazan notes was mostly your Spacers (the TAG ones) classes and the spells were from the equipment lists."

Okay what's the big deal? People get higher rankings by selling their untested brands at "Chose Your Price" rates and just giving it away for free all the time. You see, I don't do that. I sell. I don't plan on home improvements with the money, but I insist on some recompense for the artwork (which people need to start investing in again because the big companies are getting sucky with their choices) and formatting, as well as just the time spent. Still it is nice to go perusing a random review of a newer product and find out that your flop of a product from a decade ago has made into to medallion level sales of game sales at a preferred site.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

A World a Week, 8/22/18: Still an Egg

Here is the map that made into the photocopied issues of Egg City, nominally for Red Bat. Part of my "small press" series of games where I try to go all late 70s and early 80s with role-playing material.

So take Detroit and get surreal with a sense of a 1970s low budget movie. SO of course you get martial artists, cops, finely-dressed ladies, and vampires plus a guy who is in a bunny suit. All of whom kick ass and take names. Since this was published around Easter as well as the Easter Bunny, Jesus Christ vampire-slayer figures pretty prominently.
Unable to stop my inner gamer, I couldn't stop there. The Mayor, Yosista, might or might not be the goddess Oestara. There are otter-people as well as fighy-folk down by the harbors. And there are even neanderthals kicked out of the country to make their way in the big city.



Apologies for anyone really wanting me to present a world every week. I have a lot of settings from being a dyed in the wool fantasist since I was 11, but I tend to take months to years outlining a few pages of notes. Designing a world a week might be a fun gimmick sometime, but for now it's just a catchy title for a certain type of blog entry here.

Monday, August 13, 2018

No One Way Streets

Around day three of GenCon, at 2:14pm specifically, a return Crawlspace player asked me, "When is your Western game coming out?" I didn't have an answer besides, "We'll see." Now, a week later, someone else, via email, has asked me when the western (cowboys versus cowboys, and cowboy-approved indians, I infer, invited) is planned on coming out. While I've replied in length to that emailer, it does give me a moment to blog about in game design.

Okay, no. I am not going to be writing any games based off of movies besides Crawlspace. In my mind, it is for campy horror not a serious discussion of films and the types of them. Indeed I can explore various film genres by thinking of new game sessions say in this or that locale with a certain audience in mind, but if there's not a vampire or supernatural twist to it, I might as well be running games like Gangbusters, Bushido, or Boot Hill, or some such. Niche setting RPGs and their GMs can be some of the best roleplaying sessions ever. The commitment by the game master and the players to the atmospherics and details lead to some of most immersive one offs or campaigns.


 The more places I take my homebrew into new areas of camp, the more interesting it is to me a its writer. I also get the perfect chance to get a group of flexible players, that is looking for the event that isn't much like the one playing at the next table during conventions. Not to say never, I did do a specific campaign type with Crawlspace Gothic, but that was more a vehicle to explore specific creature rules that I had developed in public elsewhere (in-play and online) while paying on homage to Hammer Films w/o writing a whole RPG game about it. And it worked for me that way, I thinking Peter Cushing had just died a few months earlier around its release.

So while there will be more source books, I have bought the cover for one already, almost two years ago now, they'll be more like observations and particular sub-genres of horror than comprehensive tomes of wisdom. Hey I am not a GURPS man.


Wednesday, August 8, 2018

GenCon 2018: Kind of Kubuki

It has been awhile since I went all journally/traveloguey, so it is perhaps time to do so.To say that this was a good year is an understatement. Now nothing really amazing really happened, indeed it might have been the lack of stupendous that made it fun. Everybody was doing their thing and we met for drinks and dinners and in general had a great time.

We were paying attention, really.


Wednesday pulling in was exasperating, but by far not the most stressful arrival at GENCON ever. We hit rush hour traffic and then once at the hotel, the Marriott (not the JW one) dealing with a minivan driver that had to park diagonally while taking 20 minutes to start to unpack gave me some time to sunbathe and shut off the engine. Old Home night had the usual suspects and the Market clan, with a new one added for variety, Afterwards, we turned a prep-session for Kal Luin's Saturday night LARP into the second locale. Believe it or not, it was helpful as well as fun. Peryton would stay up much too late torturing Curtis, the Purple Pimpernel, with a drunken stand-up routine as she prepared for her upcoming games in her own way.

Tales of Count Vulgarr
This year every spot that I had was a Crawlspace game. On top of that, the AM sessions were always for Crawlspace Gothic, specifically rehashing various Count Vulgarr yarns that have been recurring since 2008 or so, by myself and about three other GMs. I did these because most of the scripting was outlined and not requiring a lot of head-space to get typed up. I didn't know that most everybody in all of my groups had heard of the vampire not my game system. It was kind of hilarious.


"The Crypt of Count Vulgarr" was the introduction scenario on Thursday AM. Really fun group, mostly Hammer Film fans so it was easy. I was supposed to take them to the Castle Defnel for the climax, but the players had other ideas. Really worked out well ending up in the laboratory of Professor Henrich von Alfred, Vampire-Hunter LLC.

"The Return of Count Vulgarr" had a smaller group, four friends from Kansas City, that had all their parts worked out before they even got to the table. I pretty much got to sit back and eat popcorn for this session. Took them forever to figure out that wooden stakes work best.

"The Bride of Count Vulgarr" went just as awesome. The bride had been actually married about two weeks before the convention and got to work on her bridezilla that she didn't do in real life. The Count killed most of the vampire-slayers before sweeping off with the Chief Inspector of the local police, the Bride's IRL new husband.

"Return to the Crypt of Count Vulgarr" it was Sunday and everyone was tired while I was more than willing to show more than a little sardonic patience at questions asked the third time. Still we got it together, because we all insisted on having fun. It was a game filled with unexpected drama, strangest characters died, including the expected hero, before the creepy blood-sucker escaped yet once again.

My Other Things

"The Dig, part II," "Over the Top," and "The Sleep Study" all were full and had both new and returning players.  "Cave of the Ettin, part III" was a wash, but hey it happens. I was able to sneak into Exhibitors Hall while the attention whore spectacular, err the Cosplay Parade blocked as many entrances as they could. Really it was was not busy in the selling floor for at least half an hour.

On Friday evening, Peryton and I caught a come as you are dinner with Caed (of Caed Phaser fame) at Scotty's Brewhouse. The menu no longer included the mini-corndogs and mustard, but it is still one of the better places for gaming folks to dork out at. We, the evil three had a great time catching up. When Caed's son Dylan showed up, he was in for some rough teasing. He handled it well. W.E.B., the bastard, called on later that night, luckily only an hour before the end of "Over the Top," so an impromptu late-nighter developed. It pulled Curtis, Peryton, and Darronn out of their comfort zones maybe even bed to drink and deal with the two of us. Oh the hangovers did flow on the morning.

On Saturday, I helped out Kal Luin's LARP, "Metahuman Metropolis: Rise of the Overlord." John Bennett and I alternated as GM and NPCs. Not sure what everybody else was doing in the room, we were rocking our little group though.

Sunday, after "Return to the Crypt," I did my Exhibitor reconnoiter and obtained some requested bits of Lamentations of the Flame Princess, or some such, for a friend as well as some Modiphius Star Trek and another Rifts, Phase World book. Then Robin and I sat down for a bit of good old convention center pizza-- it was pretty bad and expensive, just the way convention pizza should be.

We spent most of the evening chatting with Bruce Wayne, and then others, with dinner and drinking. I kept running into people from other years that I had ran for, which lead to more drinks and even a couple selfies. A dude remembered a Glow session from like five years ago. One fellow complimented me on my daughter's, Saharrah's Crawlspace game-- sadly I had to correct him, she's just the game's first hot chick that sells games, not any relation besides adopted uncle status. Monday came and we even left on time.



Friday, May 18, 2018

A World a Week 5/18/18: Egg City

So from pimps and pushers to vampires and messiahs, this urban fantasy setting has been batted around by me for some time. It started out as something called "The Straits." Adding in the Easter Bunny as kind of the incredible Hulk, things went weird. Well, weirder I should say. I will add the map that made it into the PDF/game-zine later.

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Every Time at a Table, May '18



Posting for a Spacers(TM) session to continue the play-testing started an impromptu Hoot weekend. Last Saturday and the next day was three RPG session half-marathon. Jedi, little Tom, and Sarah decided to come up to Cleveland from Springfield and were looking to do some serious tabletop partying. Then the "Frequent Sundays" ICONS campaign with Curtis and Mr Wylie from Oklahoma took place on-line two hours after that other gang left.

I am making notes on each session adding hard parts from the SPACERS(TM) Core rules and adding in the players' touches as they occur. This is mostly to watch a sci-fi campaign grow organically-- I other scenarios and campaigns have been tightly defined but the CLE-216 Frontier is not. With the help of Colin and a couple of unplanned visits from out-of-towners, the Saturday group at the Weird Realms has been the place to do that. I outline a session, re-read the rules while we play, and then type in problems and working parts in the after notes. This session in particular Jedi helped me focus on problems in ship damage system while enjoying Little Tom's technobabble ability while playing a "Fixer" Type. Peryton's Psychic character is helping me expand that aspect of the game as well.

The Saturday role-playing didn't end there. Sarah, on a lark, decided to do a first run of an idea in her head for Crawlspace Deluxe.  Mixing in the actor/producer dynamics into the story line, she took the college kid survival horror drama and mixed in cannibals and folklore. It was fun and we, mostly because of tipsiness and fatigue, dove hard into the All-In Hand mechanics. Jedi started coming up with a 7-card Holden variation which I over-ruled for the session, but may delve into more the deluxe redux edition. I would like to see the "EAT ME!" scenario published over the summer. We'll see what happens there.

Peryton and I were able to shrug off fatigue, sipping whiskey and drinking coffee, respectively, to conclude a story-arc which can only be called "The Chompers Cycle". This ICONS super-pets issue was just wrong and definitely not approved by the Comic Code Authority. More than a few of obscure members of the Scrap Pile, our "Avengers/JLA" super group, were able to make cameos, the GM doing their personalities while their original players watched. It was fun and showed us how rich our superhero campaign world is despite more often than not used for over-drinking with far away friends without the dangers of drunken driving.

So that is how the "off season" is going for gaming. My efforts to reconnect with early ties to local gamers, doing so-so, but what a time for Cleveland being a RPG tourism market.

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

The Obligatory ICONS session write-up, May 8th

Well I started an ICONS mini-series

Not really new. Of Curtis and Peryton, I am the least prolific runners, so I try to make mine special. Part 1 of my Scraps of Magic, "Something Witchy this Way Comes" worked out. The characters of Chance Montgomery (the Occultress, whether her play likes it or not), Counterfeit, and Jay (not just Jay, but Jay Ramirez), are gelling into a quirky group of supernatural protagonists where their arguments with the universe of magic and metaphysics is often more drama than what I provide in my story.

The Occultress
Image may contain: 1 personShe is only called this by pervy would-be boyfriends, that happen to make up 99% of Chance Montgomery's private investigator business's clientele. She is a better detective than your average gumshoe because she is psychic as in seeing the past and glimpses of the future. But she's also really unlucky in love and war. There's more to that last statement than I want to go into right now.

Counterfeit
Image may contain: 1 person, shoesNot saying this is a creature that has been summoned from another world and especially not a minion of a powerful spider demon, but she is. Her illusion ability is only hampered by her bad taste. And then there's Jay[Moda Masculina] Pantalones Verdes: Ăšltima tendencia ...Something of a witch in his own right, he's just nowhere near as good a bruja as his deceased Nanaita. And she keeps telling him this, as she is able to possess him when he wants to cast spells harder than he is capable of. Of course, her walking around in his body has it's drawbacks, which I am going to get more into as our little campaign progressesThe four were hired by Doctor Philosophy, the current keeper of the Townhouse of Terrible, to find out what happened to two of his friends, Professor Prim and Mz. Dames. The two occult scholars were keeping tabs on a group of shady cultists before they disappeared. Our trio not only found the group of witches, collectively known as "the Coven" being lead by gender-confused Natalie Reverend, err Nathan Rev, "the Warlock." They then discovered that the destructive paranormal entity known as The Burning Man had been summoned from his "Morning Star" portal, which usually does not bode well for the place where he is walking around. There was also the the very mercenary anti-hero called Night Ninja, that looked a lot like Marvel comic's Moon Knight, except there was no cape, and he wore gray, so totally different, hanging around.The group did their best to find the missing persons but only ruled out where the two were not. The post-cognition sex scenes were avoided to keep things PG-13. They were able to find out where the Burning Man was going to appear again, right where they and the Coven were. And in a plot twist that worked out really well, it was discovered that the "shady cultists" were actually trying to banish the metaphysical wave of destruction after it had been summoned by Prim and Dames, who were the super-villains Hypnos and Moon-Wolf respectively. Supernatural fisticuffs ensued, with the Magical Scrappers being able to turn the tables on Hypnos and Moon-Wolf. The Coven was able to banish the Burning Man, but at the loss of three of their members and Natalie... err Nathan Rev, their "Warlock." In the explosive departure of the Solomon Grundy aflame, Night Ninja helped the other villains escape.Upon reporting back to Doctor Philosophy, they learned that Night Ninja had been busy elsewhere stealing the Key of Kthom-Kopf as well as helping his fallen friends. It was here where our protagonists decided to become a trio of heroes, especially when the metaphysical master offered to keep them on retainer for the duration of the investigation.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Everytime at a Table, April '18.

In between BASHCon in February and GENCON sometime in July-August has suddenly become a good time for not only working on things clanging around my head but I can connect with nearby tabletop role-players. To date, this year, I am capitalizing on the opportunity. The advent of biweekly Saturday evening role-playing is not only only drawing in fellow gamers, I get to play as well as run things. Combined with my construction efforts, life is full.

Wobbling is a good thing
I am work on the final revision of an RPG game that I have said that never really liked. That said, sitting back and looking at the work that I keep on doing, it works. Add in about nine years of play-testing scenarios,. Then swish around a few illustrations and graphics, Ultimately, you will have a finished product.

I have a couple half-way complete projects that I hope to get out before I die. I'd also like to make sure that my game system makes sense. At the same time, I need folks willing to play with me. Luckily, I have the personal level covered. On the other hand, I am dealing with good GMs that have stories to work out. At the same time, I have a couple of assume GMs. Below is my LOTFP notes from a GM that approved my maps based off of his narrative.



Old School Gaming is Naval Gazing... Leading to cancer.
Okay, I only have 3.16 examples to explain this you, dear innocent reader. So let me try to explain.
I've played exactly 10 sessions of Dungeon Crawl Classics and more than a handful of whatever else claims to be OSR. I have just recently been to Geriatric Con Cheese Curd edition. I have also played in someone's revision of TSR Gangbusters. In all but three situations I have not only dealt with sullen GMs, mostly that Gangbusters guy, not willing to deal with creative players, I have played with petty players. I have dealt with the animosity of  players harboring favor from arbitrary rules that want to define success as scared people turning multiple pages to do something like "118 points" of damage to player-characters that have six points to their vicarious existence. They back bite their fellow players and run away from challenges.

Let's look at this logically. Okay you have systems that encourage statistics to govern the average PC to perform illogical feats in order to become recognized personas in an under-scripted saga. This saga requires your Character to be both the protagonist and the butt-monkey to on-going story in front of it. In about a decade, and 47 of your best efforts to attain 3rd level, you get to be apart of a glorious story. Ayup. That's how it goes. If you're looking at things from 1000 years in the future.

Every role-player is about character advancement and dealing with situations that they don't deal with daily. So what does being a turnip farmer awaiting death at some chance to die in a bit of random goo based solely of  rules lead to? It might fulfill some asshole's desire to be in control of squat. At the same time, both sides of these participants actions lead to seclusion from hope of dealing with anything new.

NOT the "sullen" GM, instead a great one who is just wrong.
 Years-long weekly Open sessions that lead to four 1st-3rd Level, dealing with newcomers like viruses.The most comfortable is hurt even for an evening. The usual  cry "We should screen our players" without knowing the rules. This is while the expected crowd, meaning the "regulars," look like incompetent newcomers. Meanwhile real, just arrived, role-players deal with them. Especially quaint when the strangers understand the rules better than they, the regulars, do after listening to the GM fifteen minutes when they, themselves, asked earlier. If someone has to turn four pages to do 16 points of damage to a Character that has "3" Hit Points,. At that point something is wrong. I don't blame the GMs, they are only promoting a flawed series of products meant to get husbands home to their griping wives earlier than 4am. Old School Gaming is about assholes trying to be 14 years-old forever.
I learned this because a friend from out of town wanted to play with a fabulous DCC group here in Cleveland every Thursday night. We almost killed them all with 0-level characters that none of my group really took seriously.

Alien Sightings beyond Arcturus!

The bright spot of dealing with the "Old School" crowd was that the next night was scheduled for me to GM something. I rolled a d8 to decide among my preferred games. I showcased my Spacers (TM) RPG. Everybody, all five of us, had a great time. It was nice to play for about three and a half hours and tell a story.


Every time at the tabletop is a victory, despite the OSR crowd.

Sunday, April 1, 2018

Every Time at a Table is a Victory

Oddly enough the convention schedule between February until now has been a little full. Between BASHCon and GARYCon, I only had two weeks to get things in order between them. And by get things together, I mean financial concerns. Being at the point where my "art" does not pay any bills except for about every fourth delivered pizza, I rely heavily upon my savings account.

But last Saturday night (March 31st), I was able to get back into gaming at the local area gaming store. Both people that I know and people that I hope to get to know.

Two people I have gamed with for over a year.
I wish we had a picture of everybody playing in the tabletop session, but frankly my wife worked her Character too well and things ended too quickly. It's alright, we were at the 3 1/2 hour mark anyway. 

I am moving beyond just small into the weird press

So like anyways, Egg City.
Egg City is, finally, my response to The Easter Bunny Hates You video that has been available for over a decade now. Take a 70s exploitation flick, work in some RPG urban fantasy, and add some not too subtle analogy. Wallah! This project was supposed to be about ten pages long, and then my urban fantasy project from 2004 (then called "The Straits") got worked into the mix. So about forty pages later, and three illustrations from both Jedi and me (Monkey Lot), an affordable product is now up to the cost of budget lunch at Mickey Gee's and not in the PeryPubber "affordable rage". But hey, if you want the Easter Bunny as your umbering hulk and Jesus as your Horus, and fuzzy animals as humans, then this product is for you.

Let me try to better express things beyond a soundbite. Take whatever edition of Shadowrun that included your favorite campaign and your 16 steampunk games, and get rid D&D altogether. While it does still have elves (who doesn't), the rest of the Gygax canon folk are not mentioned. Instead one has neanderthals, otter-faces, a kindred that I call the "imby" (poor cousins of the NIMBY), and Ken St Andre's (T&T) ratlings. Then work in a world that is only cutting edge when it's the most affluent, and the rest of the world deal with data plans on their phones and feeding horses to get to and from their office jobs downtown five days a week.

Then work in a violent Easter Bunny... . The one that hates you, but Santa Claus likes him and judges you.

Over a year ago, I told Beckett, the owner of our local Weird Realms games and escapists media store, something for Easter to compliment the release of the Santa Lands. Well it has taken a while it is here now though. Mind you, the "print run" is fourteen copies being made at a Staples(r) copy center, and three of them being handed out for free to the play-testers. Still, the PDF sales for holiday related items do pay for the art and photocopies, if not for the four months out of my free time it took to get it out of my head. Still, it is a good thing to finally have this setting off my mind.



Sunday, March 18, 2018

The Death of a Pirate King

As of right now, I am not sure where Peryton found this article but it is about the death of my T&T friend James L. Shipman. Which according to this obituary looked something like this in his prime, at least according to his mother.


His snarling look and spit about to come out his mouth are rather untypical for the man that I chatted with back in the Oughts (99-o8). He was a man that refused to be flustered by the conventions of life around him, as well as in love with his fiance, a medical grad student that teased him relentlessly. The conventions of flustering life around him were apparently those of a smallish, but affluent, batch of fans clamoring for GM-guided adventures of the T&T (Tunnels and Trolls (TM) ) RPG game system. Because of him, I would not only publish "outlaw" adventures that were not solo-adventures for the system, I would go on to get to know the creators, in person, while he demanded his dues.

Perhaps his snarling and spitting visage comes from his frustration at not being able to steal T&T from the first robber-barrons that stole their fame from pre-1st Edition D&D. They organized against him, with my help, when it was found out that he was using people's artwork without accreditation and not paying them. Indeed, I was the one that helped the scandal get some mileage-- he had tried to steal my New Khazan from me. By the way, I knew he was stealing other people's artwork about two years before the party. Anybody paying attention should have already. In his acquiescence, he'd exclude me from his Russian Troll-Factory-like theft of T&T products from others producing anything after his fall from grace. Lest people forget he was not just graced but beloved among the T&T delvers at one time.

In any case, if this is the Shippy that would interrupt my Civilization games with Yahoo messages back in 1999 with request for specifics on "gunnes" from 1577 for Tunnels and Trolls, I'll miss not having him around. Unlike others, I have nothing to blame him for, except being a little too smart compared to his competitors but not having the money to do anything about it.

In a Yahoo Chatroom Verse, somewhere,
My ork Wizard will always ask into the nothing, "Are you there?"
A hobbit thief will always step out of the shadows to answer, "Yes."

Monday, March 12, 2018

Apocalyptic Cheese: Assault on the Gary Conplex 2018

Thursday AM, roughly 10am local time, I found myself facing Chicago traffic for a third time in six months, all to be heading to Wisconsin. This time not for work, but being a tourist-- not just that but an Adventurer! I was driving to Lake Geneva for Gary Con X. Monk had tried to facilitate us two meeting us there six years before, but had to cancel. This year he dug in and with determination he made sure we got there. Of course I had to drive to Milwaukee, first, to pick him up at the airport, which was as far away from the Grand Geneva Resort, the convention's home site for now, as Chicago O'Hara, but who was counting anyway? Actually I was... .

So having left Cleveland at 6am local time, I was close enough to the Gen Mitchel Airport (MKE) at 11:50 to stop off and take a break. I hit the Mars Cheese Castle. Having a couple of beers and a liverwurst sandwich, on which onions and lettuce costed extra(?), I chatted up a Wisconsin-inspired Glow scenario with JerryTel IRC to pass the time. Badgers and cows were involved, and I was allowed to sample the establishment's beer cheese. Finally a little after 4pm I was able to go and pick up my Bru from the airport.
At around 5:15, Monk bothered to ask me, "What time is the game you're running again?"
"Six, tonight." I told him as I had three months earlier.
He looked at the GPS on the windshield which indicated that we would be there at 5:42 pm, and replied, "Oh."
At 5:49pm though, I was checking in at the Registration Desk. The convention had been running all day already, so the lines were mostly empty. The GM's spot didn't have me so without comment, I moved to the Preregistered line, because I couldn't schedule an event without paying for a badge to begin with. There were three people in front of me, and single person working the line. Another fellow moved to an unattended registration line and suddenly four people rushed to that line. The attendant did the one that showed up first, whom he seemed to know, and then announced he was closed. It took a while for the on-rushers to get the point to move behind me. On my turn, at 5:57, the fellow couldn't find "Tom Loney" nor "Thomas...", I told him my user name for the site was "Tom K." He couldn't find that either. I showed him that my event was in the catalog, and suddenly he found my email address, where a "Tom K Loney" had bought a badge for a "Tom K" from Cleveland, OH according to the payment information. A dude nearby wearing a name badge entitled something like "Wulf Rager" smirked. At 6:06pm, I was standing at an empty table, where I waited for fourteen minutes. In a few more minutes, I found Monk also at the registration desk, where his badge couldn't be located either. At 7:07, after checking emails and verifying program entries for events registered, it was discovered by the attendant that "Michael" is indeed the longer form of the name "Mike" and badge was pre-printed and awaiting that person. Upon this warm welcome, finding our room far on the wings of the resort, involved four sets of stairs and two ramps and four buildings. Walking outside avoided this cavern-like voyage. We would be the only two conventioneers to utilize the fresh air route as far as I could tell though. Hey, maybe it's an old school thing, despite all the power scooters.
By around 8pm, I ran into Dan, Frank Sinatra from Rat Pack vs Cthulhu days, and we slipped into the gamed session called "The Transience County War" for a system called Feral World. The GM was the author, a Sydney Wyeth, who brought the furry-humanoids to the old west, complete with recoil rolls and shotgun pellet scatter rules. It was fun, but by midnight we were all dying from exhaustion.The next day, all the morning games I looked into were filled with six people and then some. But around 2pm, I was able to run an unofficial Crawlspace game, "The Sleep Study", the one that no one showed up the night before for Dan and his entourage (his son, Kyle, and buddy, Bryon(sp?)), and Monk. Monk and Dan went on to find a D&D session to play in. I spent the rest of Friday night holding my liquor well until I wasn't. I would like to thank Christine, Joseph, Joe, Niall, and a few others for putting up with me. I came back to the room when I noticed I was slurring really bad. I did catch some serious pod casters talking about a dice-driven golf game and other more mundane RPG sessions before then.
Saturday at least until 4pm, every game that I was interested in was booked up. I did have lunch with Monk and a fellow from Rhode Island, Tim, that was running a DCC Lankhmar scenario. I'd wrap up my endeavors, at 4:45pm, having a cocktail with Josh from Prolific Games. I was invited to a game that evening but I missed a page and ended up just hanging out watching TV. Sunday was ditto and this time Monk hung out as well. Monday was spent checking out and getting Monk to Taco Bell before getting him back to the airport. The drive home was a bit long, and Chicago tolls are excruciating.


This was a great GMs' convention. Every table from Friday am on was booked up. The red banners proclaiming how full a table was were everywhere before the games were even supposed to start and chairs around the table filled. As for special guests, this is the place to be. The program has some fourteen out of 82 pages of personages the attendee should meet. The resort itself is a pleasant smaller complex where the miles around it are hidden by its rolling hills and deep valleys. The staff was great, I am not sure if I didn't meet any wait staff that was not a grad student if not a teacher already getting extra money. The breakfast buffet had great smoked trout and a wonderful omelet chef.

I am just not sure if dedicating myself to the convention is the right thing for me. Monk and I mostly did it as a lark, "a bucket list thingy" as we joked years before. While it is 80% role-players, it was still around 1,200 people, I think, and there are like plenty of OSR games plying for attention. And folks, judging from registration onward, were not the types that like stuff that isn't very familiar to them. While I could register ahead of time to play in games, I doubt my Crawlspace, or other projects, would receive anything beyond marginal attendance for a handful of years. In case you haven't noticed, I am a running GM that is getting no younger.
Wisconsin though was very proud of its cheese.
 

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Tom K in Toledo: BASHCon '18

Driving to Toledo last Thursday afternoon afternoon was the start of a recovery for me. Long time friends and associates will be familiar with our clique's "Quitters Club" phenomena. This is where we make plans to do something and then the day before we do it, sometimes a couple of days before but not often, decide not to do it. It started with Jerry and Robin at BASHCon about four years ago, and has crept up here and there every since. Well last couple of years I've indulged in it as well. Having moved last February and being physically beat-up, I announced the morning of BASHCon 2017 that I wasn't showing up. Later in the year, I postponed my own birthday celebration in the same sort of attitude. Well, driving down I-80, around 3pm, it felt good.

Of course, once in Toledo, my proposed Thursday night pre-convention party had mixed results. It was scheduled later, like 8pm, and no one showed up until 9pm. And that person, JerryTel, had to leave around 11pm. At 9:30, Uncle Gnoll was communicating via FacetuBe that he was there but getting something to eat and could be contacted by ouji board or something similar after that. I actually saw him pulling out of the parking lot as Jerry and I ran up to the corner store to grab a 6-pack. When Jedi and Sahara ( cum new boyfriend, Tiny Tom, we'll call him) showed up at 10pm, we did get a short Crawlspace session worked in. I practiced running the scenario called "The Sleep Study" which I will running at other conventions this year. It went okay and I creeped myself out more than scaring anybody else, but got good feedback from the test audience.

Friday during the day, I spent most of time watching RT America to see what the shows are actually like on TV. Not doing the cable TV thing at home, I see only a couple clips from my Redacted Tonight on my social media feed. As a propaganda channel, as even the BBC and all countries' news sources are, it's what it is. Playing to the weird mixture of disloyal, illiterate liberals and willfully ignorant, anti-liberal GoP-voting authoritarians, it still had enough conspiracy theory authors solving the assassinations of the late 60s and 70s to fill 30 minutes here and there. It was a romp through anti-intellectualism with the trappings of intellectual reasoning. It was fun, but I would've gotten better international news analysis from nun porn or some such.

That evening, I showed up at the University of Toledo around 4pm. There was no registration yet. "We open at five" said somebody in a UT BASHCon shirt sitting in front of a computer with four staffers sitting behind him. I snuck into the exhibitor's area to say hi to Beckett who was still setting up his booth. Actually he was chatting with Ted Mallison who was also running a booth to field his playtest for Whisper City Pro-Wrestling RPG. I went ahead and bought a copy right there. I then went up to the Phoenician restaurant, now on the fourth floor and having a stage, to have a couple beers while waiting. I read the small book during that time, and I found the rules fun and knowledgeable. I also dig the term "Potato Rage."

A little after 5pm, I picked up a badge as there was no line. I then sat outside the entrance to see how long it would take for anybody to open up the doors. It only took 26 minutes, with staffers sitting just beyond them and other staffers walking in and out of them. Convention goers themselves started filing through as well. Finally the boss, a young woman asked why the doors weren't open and received shrugs and baffled expressions from all near enough to hear. It was actually hilarious.


By around 8:00pm, JerryTel and friends, Peryton, part of the Jedi Clan, and Gnoll showed up. We started an unofficial RPG session "A Little Horror on the Prairie, Pt 5: A Bloody Ending." Jerry had eight players, five new ones and the characters that Pery, the Boy, and I have been playing for a few years now in an on-going 1870s Stay Alive campaign. There was some smatterings of role-playing, no one at the table was a noob or shy, then the GM just threw his hands in the air. We were railroaded from the starting point onto a train and to the adventure's release point. And it was fun watching Jerry break the rule against railroading because "We are going to finish this scenario, dammit, tonight." he swore. Of course when the staffers decided to wrap up the convention an hour early at 11pm, it was supposed to be going until midnight, we hadn't finished yet. So Jerry reluctantly agreed that a Part 5b, could be run as a Saturday night event. After midnight, Gnoll had a late supper with Pery and me, which made it a perfect evening. I slept like a stone for three hours at least.

Saturday, while JerryTel and the Boy were running Circus Imperium, their own take on Circus Maximus, I was having lunch with the other half of the Jedi Clan and shopping. Ran into Denny and Marty, part of the Beckett CLE gaming gang. Saw Corey from Toledo for about 10 seconds before losing him for the rest of the weekend. I then chatted with Mallson about RPG settings as an addiction. Jedi and the other half would head out before the evening game. We did dinner, Sahara and little Tom joined the JerryTel clan and us, and then we found a private room for "A Bloody Ending, part 2." Gnoll found us just on time as if by magic. What a game it was. JerryTel's flare for a cinematic fight scenes and use of visual props was awesome. The group being smaller by one person gave everyone a bit of time for hamming it up. We finished up at 9:45pm and everyone had enjoyed themselves immensely.

A heavy snowfall was coming down, so I cancelled a room party for everyone not staying at the Red Roof Inn where we were. Pity it would've been fun to hang with the CLE gang and Mallson, but I did not know how bad the snow was going to get. Instead we sat around with the full Jedi clan and Gnoll until about 1am. Peryton was about to make herself a bed on the floor when the party decided it was time to say goodnight.

Sunday, JerryTel ran his traditional D&D game. Pery and Little Tom just had to be there. So the man was handling a group of about twelve, four of them under the age of 17. I watched some guys in the video game room, where they told me about a video game where the players assume the roles of the deck staff of a starship. I also spent some time brainstorming with Jedi and Jennifer, Jenn, about GENCon and how to hype up BASHCons that don't fall on years that end in zeroes or fives. As Jerry's game wrapped up and he was cleaning up he looked at me and asked if I had done anything all weekend. When I replied no, he said, with some exhausted satisfaction, "I've redeemed myself from the Quitters Club."

The after dinner was at El Vaquero. The whole of the Jedi clan, the JerryTel clan, Pery and I, and Gnoll (coming in late) made it. The poor waiters and cooks and people sitting around us. Still they got us in and out in less than an hour and a half, and other large groups were coming in as we trickled out. Peryton and I made our way home in separate cars, as wasteful and inefficient as it sounds. Still it was a fun party.






Monday, January 8, 2018

Star Trek the RPG: the Twenty-Teens Edition


For my B-day, I bought myself four RPG products. Two RPGs and two sourcebooks indulging in adventure gaming passions Sci-Fi and Horror. Of course my bank account didn't need the hit and my book shelves have been overflowing for over three decades so this present is as decadent as a trip a Greek island. Still there is some joy in sitting back over a couple of evenings with my reading glasses on and reading through works written for the crowd that has role-playing in mind. Ah the fantasy-trip. As a guy writing his ultimate sci-fi/space opera RPG, I have to read all other SF games in existence. Of course the various Star Trek iterations are on the top of the list of what gets read. My first indulgence on the couch of yellow light and warming cats, was the latest RPG by Modiphius, Star Trek Adventures: The Roleplaying Game.
Well, looking at the cover, I see the darker disaster-driven tone of the Star Trek reboots (the ones w/ Chris Pine and incomprehensible space battle scenes) movie-- is that blown up London in the background? And I think Tuvok is leading a mission into somebody's tool shed on Smoggy-IV while an Andorian engineer struggles to get into a footlocker with a hapless red-shirt looking on dramatically. The overall product is as big as encyclopedia, heavy hardcover bound, and the pages are so glossy that paper cuts are not hard to come by. I know that this stands for quality (or rather "bang of the buck") in the Kickstarter era, but I begin to identify with our antenna-having heroine on the opening illustration.

I spent about an hour of the three hours reading it from cover to cover, looking at the inside of the covers. These are filled with star maps of what I think is Alpha and Beta quadrants of the franchises' universe. I never paid enough attention when watching the shows to hear if the writers identified real stars as many homeworlds for this or that alien species, so this was like a box of chocolates to me.

Turning through the sharp pages it read quickly. The historical sections strung together the franchises' sometimes at odds milieu. Enterprise, the grossly incoherent original series, the meandering Next Generation, and then about the second season of Deep Space Nine are woven together. The events of the Voyager's beginning and the Gamma quadrant are mentioned but not delved into. This history is more ascertained from atmospheric quotes of characters from the differing cultures referring to events from the various series and the movies. The writers want the gaming experience to occur using their mechanics and products. Long descriptions on point allocation, how dice effect things and how players should view their Star Fleet careers fill many, many pages. Pointers for the GM get thrown in here and there, and later a full section for the GM adds more to details already given. Meanwhile only the more TV photogenic of alien species of the UFP are bothered to be profiled. Later, some ships are discussed and then adversarial aliens and their ships get some coverage. And I was ready to play a game or two set in DS9 with maybe a time travel episode going back to STtOS.

The book and the writing has a lot of good things going for it especially when compared to other Trek RPG projects before it. There is high quality artwork, no pictures from the series, like an earlier effort. The ships and technobable (Treknobabble) are easily understood. The writers mention the Gorn but did not try to fill the Klingon and Romulan empires with animal-people and the Kzinti from Larry Niven's writings like say works that rhyme with Starfleet Battles (and its spin-off Prime Directive). It keeps itself from getting bogged down in details that never appeared or were even mentioned in the shows like FASA's RPG did way back in the day.

At the same time, as space role-playing games go, I wanted more to the universe if I had to deal with such a big book. Overall a Bigfoot of a sci-fi RPG.