Saturday, April 30, 2011

What Did You Do Today?

Me, I took my son to a jousting tournament.  This is not Code Speak.  Yes, there will be pictures and ruminations on gaming tomorrow.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

A Blast From The Past

I freely admit to being a packrat.  I don't collect RPGs, I accumulate them.  Some years ago, I sold off a chunk of my collection.  Even after disposing of what was originally a couple thousand dollars worth of books, I still had something like sixty linear feet worth of RPG material on my bookshelves and more in storage in the garage.

Then, there's the less organized stuff.  The boxes of loose paper and odds and ends that have traveled with me through the years, partway across the state, and through six residences that I can count.  The rubbish carried in my wake, as it were.

Long story short, I recently dove into those boxes.  Mostly, they were full of junk (and in one case, a fully articulated rat skeleton).  But one box held a bit of personal treasure. (Link opens PDF file.  It's safe.)

The 1983 Hero Games catalog.  And my Adventurer's Club membership card. I got the card when I signed up for a subscription to AC magazine (Hero's house organ) at Origins so I could attend the members-only party at the con.  Which brings up a host of memories.  Origins was the first big gaming convention I ever attended, and it was a doozy:  I met all of the Hero Games crew (including my idol at the time, Aaron Allston), got to play Champions with George MacDonald, had breakfast with Ray Greer and Doug Garrett (Doug, by the way, is more responsible for everything good I do as a GM than anyone else I ever met), met and gamed with Lee Gold (from Alarums & Excursions), saw the old Steve Jackson Games "battle damaged" delivery van, bought some art from Mark Williams, and flew on a plane for the first time in my life.

It's no wonder I didn't go to a major con again for nearly 20 years; how could I top that?

Monday, April 25, 2011

Gonna Get A Copy For My Mama

Back in August, before I moved this blog over from Dreamwidth, this came out via RPGnow:

"Sins of the Past" is an adventure I wrote for ICONS, a really nifty rules-light superhero game published by Adamant Entertainment (and distributed in print by Cubicle 7).  It (Sins) got some nice reviews, including one that said it was the best superhero adventure they'd ever read, which still gives me warm fuzzies.  All I know is that, if you play ICONS, there are worse ways you could spend five bucks, and even if you don't like the story, it comes with close to a dozen new heroes and villains and some really nice artwork from Dan Hauser.

Anyway, that was several months ago.  After I wrote it, I went through a rough patch trying to write another one, and ended up having to put it on hold because nothing was coming together right.  Also, in playtesting the adventure, I'd found there were some things about ICONS that just really didn't quite suit my personal style.  They were things I'd probably sit down and fix if I were going to play it regularly, but that didn't seem likely, and I felt like anything I was writing should cleave as closely to the official rules as possible.

So, the long and short of it was that my relationship with ICONS, while happy, was pretty much a one-time thing.  Or so I thought.

Today, I got news of this:

And noticed my name there on the cover.  As it turns out, when putting together an enemies supplement for the game, Gareth (editor and honcho at Adamant) decided to include a couple of the baddies I created for "Sins."  On top of a great mix of bad guys, it also includes a number of optional rules that fill a couple of the rules holes that bugged me in the past.  I'm still not sure about how ICONS works for a long-term campaign, but I think there's more than enough here for some satisfying one-shots.

Better yet, as this is going to be an actual printed-and-bound-and-sold-in-stores game book (as opposed to PDF-only), I can finally send a copy of something I've had published to my mom and not have to walk her through opening the file without crashing her computer.

Considering my wife started a new job this morning after a four-month layoff, I have to say today's been pretty good so far.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Stay on Target...

Tomorrow will be the third C&C game.  I fear I'm already beginning to fall victim to system drift.  For all the things C&C does right, I really feel like the pace of character advancement is fairly glacial compared to both 3.x/Pathfinder and 4e.  I really don't remember whether early editions of D&D were like this, but it definitely bugs me.  Worse, I'm not sure that just giving the PCs more XP and advancing them will necessarily fix the problem.  I find I like a bit more of a tactical feel to my games (not surprising coming from my Champions background, I suppose), and C&C doesn't do much to scratch that itch.

But, by the same token, it seems like my players are having a good time.  And it's not like I'm having a bad time, just that there are things I feel are lacking a bit.  And changing up systems on a group of new players is hardly Cricket.  All of which means I think I should just suck it up and keep rolling with C&C.  Though I may dole out more XP to keep things interesting.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Meet the New Bors

With the passing of Einar, I needed to come up with a new PC for the Pathfinder game.  Since our group is notoriously low on tank-types, I decided to pass on some of the more interesting, if eclectic options (Witch, Summoner), and chose to play a knight.  But not a knight in shining armor.  I've done one of those in recent memory.  No, this is a far grittier sort, based on the historical model, with a bit of fantasy flavor.

Sir Bors is a Furyondian knight who's spent the last few years up on the border with the Empire of Iuz.  He can ride and charge and all that good stuff, but he's perfectly happy fighting on foot and engaging in guerilla warfare if need be.

Rules-wise, he's a Cavalier 4, Bard 1, Battle Herald 1.  The Battle Herald is a pretty cool prestige class that allows me to tank like a front line combatant coupled with leadership stuff similar to a 4e Warlord.

And because I'm a total geek for things like heraldry, I got to make up a coat of arms for him:

Or, a bend sable, overall three boars heads gules.

(I also apologize for the terrible puns the above coat of arms.  I "cant" help it.)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Pourin' A Forty For Da Shorty

I was going to use this post to start talking about medieval and renaissance weapons and armour.  However, the events of last night's Pathfinder game ("Dawn of the Temple of Elemental Evil") must take precedence.  For during a tumultuous battle in the Inn of the Welcome Wench, Einar the Bloody-Handed, hero of Hommlet, met his end.  He died the way he lived: angry and in a tavern.

Of course, Einar isn't the first PC I've lost, but he is the first I've lost in many years.  I think I have to go all the way back to high school to find the last D&D(ish) PC of mine that died in the line of duty.  Of course, there was a significant period of time between last night and high school when I didn't play any sort of D&D, so my data is hardly pristine.

Anyway, it was a bit of a shocker at the time, but nothing I didn't expect in the long run.  Playing a barbarian is always a dance on the knife's edge; once your rage lapses, you're going to pay a huge HP tax, and Einar went from 14 HP to -29 in a single blow (all in all, I took something like 124 points of damage in about five rounds of combat).  On the plus side, he did manage to crit one of the baddies a few rounds earlier, doling out 82 points of damage in one hit.

All the same, I had to reassure the DM that I was perfectly fine with him dying.  Personally, I feel like the possibility of character death is necessary to give a fantasy game an edge, something I'll probably discuss more in one of my weapons/realism posts.  That the bar-none toughest member of the party died had a definite effect on the morale not only of the characters but the other players.  And to me, that's awesome.  It's a reminder that in Greyhawk, no matter how tough you are, there's something worse just over the next hill.

So here's to Einar: may he drink deep and long in the Hallowed Halls of Hanseath, god of brewers and berserkers.

Next week, I think a Furyondyan knight will be joining the party.  They just met up with a military excursion from Verbobonc, so it'll be easy to work him into the group.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Write What You Know

Famous words, those.  Of course, I've also seen "Never write what you know, write what you love."  And there's some truth in that.  Because my one commercial product to date was certainly a labor of love, and it seems to have struck a chord with quite a few folks.

But the thing is, I don't have a lot to write about at the moment on a strictly gaming front, and one of my long-time dream projects was to write about something with which I'm pretty well acquainted: weapons and armour of the medieval and renaissance periods.  Specifically, to write a gamers' guide to the topic.

The thing is, over the years, my plans for such a project have changed considerably.  There was a time when such a guide would be dedicated to The Truth(tm), or at least The Truth(tm) as I understood it.  It would likely consist of lengthy rants about geek and gamer misconceptions about sharp pointy things.  To be honest, such a book doesn't sound like much fun to write, much less read.  Also, I'm just not that big on realism when it comes to gaming anymore.  As long as the results aren't absurdly unrealistic, I can usually sit back, suspend my disbelief, and enjoy myself.

Finally, I hesitate because the best gamer resource on the topic to date was published some years ago.  Granted, it's for The Riddle of Steel, a game system that makes the realism crowd drool and everyone else's eyes glaze over, and there's a lot of rules-specific stuff in there, but the weapons section is entirely top notch, just for the historical data and illustrations.

But, said resource is out of print, and TRoS is an unlikely candidate for revival.  And there's a lot I feel I can impart in terms of general knowledge and things that can add to the "versimilitude" of a game without adding complexity, as well as provide some ideas you might want to consider when creating or playing in a "gritty" or "realistic" game.

So, I think I'll take a stab at it (so to speak).  It probably won't be something I do with every post, but I think it may be my focus for the near future.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Feel His...Ashardalon-y Wrath!

Last night was one of those odd blips we get in our Tuesday group.  Rick had wrapped up the first arc of his M&M game, and Andy was supposed to resume his Pathfinder "Dawn of the Temple of Elemental Evil" game.  Except that Andy had a prior commitment and was going to be late, Tim was also likely to be tardy, and Rick was going to miss due to his wife's birthday (I know, it's an unforgivable gamer sin, but he's still a newlywed).

I initially offered to run some more M&M, but quickly realized that I wasn't up to the task and suggested I bring Wrath of Arshadolon instead.

Best Suggestion Ever.

Prior to last night, I'd "played" it twice with my son right after I bought it.  I put it that way because, in re-reading the rules at lunch yesterday, I discovered all the things I'd done wrong before (many, many things).  All in all, I'm surprised the Boy and I had as good a time as we did, considering all the errors I'd made.  This time around, I had a better idea of how it was supposed to work and having four more adults at the table instead of an eleven year old with the attention span of a gnat made it work.

We played the second adventure "Monster Hunters" twice.  The first time through, things started pretty poorly, with a poison dart trap and a rolling boulder wreaking a good deal of havoc early on, as well as drawing a multitude of monsters early in the game.  But after the initial shock wore off, we started to get the hang of the game and how the sequence of play affected our decision making.  About halfway through, one of our players who can be pretty vocal about not liking a game said something like "I know we're getting our asses kicked, but this is incredibly entertaining."  Eventually, we turned the tide on things and got our twelve kills and won the scenario.

The second time around, we owned the place completely.  It wasn't even close.  In retrospect, I wish we'd tried one of the other scenarios, but I wasn't sure if we had time.  But, to a man, we had a blast.  At least two of the guys are looking to buy their own copy, and I think it's going to become a regular space-filler for the odd nights where the game might not make.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Responsible Life and Other Interests 2, Gaming 0

I must confess that lately, gaming and gaming-related thinking has taken a bit of a back burner to other priorities. We've been short-handed at work due to someone quitting rather suddenly, which has left me scrambling in the short term, and will continue to be an issue until we get a replacement hired and trained.  My C&C group is in the midst of scheduling challenges, so I'm not entirely sure when we'll get together again.

Also, we (my family and I) decided to get back into the SCA, after nearly a decade's absence.  This is not a trivial undertaking for me, as I take my involvement in said organization rather seriously.  It also means a fairly substantial outlay for new rapier fencing gear, since I sold most of mine when I left.

Time to pull this guy out of storage.

As a result, gaming has suffered.  I opted out of this past Tuesday's M&M game due to work-related fatigue, and I offered to bring Wrath of Arshadalon to next week's session rather than run a one-shot.  Given how much I enjoy GMing, I think that speaks volumes about the state of my gaming brain.

On the other hand, all is not forsaken.  The 4e Sunday game meets this weekend (though I may be half-dead from an SCA event on Saturday, but I'm not letting it stop me).  And my sudden rekindled interest in matters Renaissance and Early Enlightenment has got me full of ideas for All for One: Regime Diabolique, should I ever get a game of it going.