Sunday, October 28, 2012

The Cast Assembles

This afternoon saw a gathering at my house for a pre-game session. Mostly, we finished up character creation (Hero Lab remains the best thing ever for this).  Our cast is an interesting mix, to say the least:

Beerbeard, a Dwarven Bard played by my son.  He plays a hurdy-gurdy and sings about beer and gold a lot.

Judkiss "Candles" Gleave, a Human (Thug) Rogue. So nicknamed for his propensity for arson.

Bergano Decyriac, Human (Swashbuckler) Rogue.  A dashing swordsman, intent on pursuing the good life.

Caunwen Mathanmyr, a straight-laced Elf Ranger.

Flarentindalistalus, aka "Flare", a pyromaniac Gnome Sorcerer

Kishiko, an Elf Sea Witch, with a crab familiar

We're a little light on healing (the Bard and Witch can supply some) and there's no one with any energy channeling, which could be problem if undead turn up in numbers, but I think I can DM around that.  I'm a little more worried about the relative lack of front-line combat types.  However, since I'm planning on using modules written for four PCs with a group ranging up to six, I'm hoping that will offset some of the hazards.

If nothing else, they should be an entertaining bunch.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

And Then, You Decided To Celebrate

I'm getting ramped up to run some Pathfinder.  A few weeks ago, someone on posted a neat idea for a campaign, The Epic Pub-Crawl of Destiny.  Short version: The PCs, all first-level types on the road to adventure haul off to a local tavern to celebrate their first success.  There is drinking and merriment and...

When they wake up, two weeks have passed.  And they're at least 100 miles from where they last remember.  And they're not even sure the folks with them are the same ones they went to the tavern with.  Also, the locals seem to think they volunteered to help with something, the sort of something that only adventurer-types can handle.  And when that task is done, well surely there will be drink and the whole thing starts anew.  Sort of "Quantum Leap," but with swords and spells.

The longer version involves Golarion's god of Freedom, Wine, and Ale.  And a bigger plot that's been brewing in the back of my head.  But mostly, especially, early on, it's a great device to allow me to mix up adventure styles and keep the players a little off balance.

Tomorrow, folks are coming over to iron out characters and I may be able to run some initial set-up stuff.  I've got five adults and my son lined up to play.  I've convinced the Boy to try something different from his usual backstabby rogue schtick, thus Beerbeard came to being.  He's a dwarven bard.  Who plays a hurdy-gurdy.  Should be a hoot.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

There's Still a Spark of Life

I'm not dead yet.  This September is turning out to be almost as much of a hell month as last year, with a different set of forces conspiring against my happiness and creative urges.  That being said, I'm starting to feel the need to run a regular game again.  A game I took a stab at three years ago that just didn't work out.  Folks who followed me way back when I was on Dreamwidth may remember I ran a few sessions of a "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" game set at UMASS: Arkham, aka "Ol' Misk" for some folks from my Tuesday night group.  It was meant as a fill-in game and I guess it went OK for that, but my plans for it had always been bigger and the group chemistry just didn't work for the stories (and style of stories) I was trying to tell.

For instance, the fact that I had a theme song (and a soundtrack, though I never really got that far) seemed to weird some folks out and amuse the rest.  It kind of bummed me out,

 I don't care what they say, it was the awesomest theme song ever.

On the plus side, I did get to indulge the part of me that likes making authentic looking game handouts:

So, of course, I want to try it again, with a different group of players, who I think/hope might catch the vibe a bit better.  I guess I ought to pitch it to a couple of them and see if I get any bites.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Not-At-GenCon Presentation Of The Dice

Last year, in Blogland people who weren't at the con posted pictures of their dice.  I'm not at the con this year either, so here's most* of the current collection:

I've added quite a few in the past twelve months, mostly due to picking up some bulk tubs from educational suppliers.

*Not Pictured: Ten black d10s with red numbering and a bag's worth of Adventure! d10s that I found after I took the photo and my Crystal Caste jade d10s, which seem to have gone missing.  Bother.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Even My Wife Said "Oooh, Pretty!"

I bought the AD&D reprints.  Yes, I still own my originals, though apart from the DMG, I didn't actually own the earlier printings.  My buddies and I were highly communal when it came to gaming books, and we'd often photocopy the sections of the books we needed, or even hand-copy passages.  As a result, I only owned a 1st printing DMG in high school, and then shortly afterwards, I discovered RuneQuest/BRP and didn't play a lick of D&D for another four or five years.  I finally purchased a full set of the books (the ones with the Easley covers) around xmas 1985, with my holiday bonus from work (I worked at a book store, so we got our bonus in the form of gift certificates.  Between them and my employee discount, I think I picked up one of every hardback they'd published up to that point.)

I'm very easy on books, so my AD&D hardbacks are still in excellent shape.  So, I really didn't need these.  But they're pretty (on the outside anyway; the insides are the same as ever, though printed on slick paper, which just feels weird), and I'm entirely supportive of efforts to memorialize the Big G. in the form of statuary, so I succumbed.

When I was checking out, the guy at the shop mentioned they were selling like hotcakes.  I made a joke about nostalgia being a powerful motivator, and he said that a number of folks he'd spoken to were buying them because they want to play 1e.  Looking at them, I kind of want to as well.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

A Bucket of D6 & a Boot to the Head

Last night, I played Champions for the first time in three or four years.  Actually, in terms of playing and not GMing, it's probably the first time since 2007 or so (whenever Steve Long was a guest at Owlcon, and that was a one-shot).  It's definitely the first time I've played 6th edition.

I played the Black Dragon, a martial artist who is neither Asian, nor Black, but still seems to fit the exploitation hero role in the eyes of the rest of the team.  Which explains why he met up with the rest of the team at "Dim Sum & Den Some," a Chinese/Soul Food restaurant run by the ever bodacious Miss Honey Pai.  By that point, I decided to just roll with it.

Anyway, I rolled tons of dice, and kicked butt with Kung Fu and generally grooved on the slightly different vibe I found at the table.  There was more in-character bits of roleplaying than we usually get out of the Tuesday games.  Maybe it's the genre, or maybe it's just that the Hero System is a little more conducive to playing a character instead of an archetype.  I don't know, but I enjoyed the heck out of it.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Happy Gygax Day!

Lately, my Gamer ADD has been acting up something fierce.  I've been bouncing all over the place, from OSR-ish stuff to superheroes to Pathfinder to Urban Fantasy.  Makes it hard to sit down and actually write about something.

Somewhere in all of that, I started looking at Dungeon Crawl Classics.  It drinks deep from the OSR well, specifically, the famous Appendix N from the original DMG.  For those not in the know, Appendix N is the list of inspirational reading, the fictional works that informed the creation of D&D.  It's a very diverse selection of old school fantasy, with lots of pre-Tolkien stuff and weird fantasy.  DCC fits that bill nicely, reading more to me like early White Dwarf-style D&D adventures.  Reading it got me thinking about the sort of music I'd want to play in that style of game.  Thinking turned to musing, and musing yielded this:

Appendix N: The Soundtrack (requires Spotify)

(Executive Summary:  Classic and Prog rock.  A few formative metal tracks.  Enjoy.)

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Vacation's End

I've had the last week off.  Most of it, I spent doing as little as possible.  This weekend, though, I had to travel up to the Dallas area.  My wife had a meeting to attend for the SCA (she's a Kingdom-level officer), and we had to be back in Houston today in order to attend a family reunion.  So, my job was to hang out all day and drive us home last night.

Of course, the meeting wasn't actually in Dallas; it was in Terrell, a very small and sleepy town about 45 minutes away.  Given there was nothing for my son and I to do, we drove over to the Big D to hit bookstores of the used, comic, and game variety (as Dallas actually has some decent game stores).

Yesterday's Haul:
A signed Mouse Guard print for my son
Physical copies of Heroes & Villains, v1 and 2 for DC Adventures
The Advanced Races Guide for Pathfinder
Rise of the Runelords for Pathfinder
A copy of the Walt Simonsen Thor Omnibus collection for 1/2 cover price

My wallet has yet to forgive me, but most of those things are items I couldn't get in Houston, and the last was too good a deal to pass up.

Then, today, my wife and I decided to exchange anniversary presents a couple of days early.  I gave her some books on Renaissance art and some painted lead collectors figures of Big Barda and Black Canary.

She gave me this:

Stylish, and epic!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Reflections On A Life In Geekdom

This isn't a gaming post.  Well, there's gaming in it, but there's a lot more.

Today is my 49th birthday.  For most of those two score and nine, I've been neck-deep in geeky pursuits.  What follows is not meant as a brag or name dropping or anything like that, but an appreciation on my part for a number of things I've been very lucky to do.

Witnessed the Apollo 11 landing on TV
Attended my first Star Trek convention at age 12
Saw Star Wars for the first time on by 14th birthday (35 years ago today)
Had a vendor's pass at the first comics convention I attended, which let me in to all the cool after-hours stuff, so I got to meet a ton of my heroes.  The rest of the time, I hung out with Jack Herman (the co-creator of Villains & Vigilantes), who I met at the con and hit it off with.  Good times.
Commissioned a Nightcrawler as a swashbuckler sketch from Dave Cockrum.  It's framed and sitting over my desk.
Went to Origins the next year and got to play Champions with George MacDonald.
Went to San Diego Con in 1985 and met Alan Moore, Jack Kirby, Jerry Siegel, and Julie Schwartz all in the same afternoon.
Inked and lettered two comics penciled by Ben Dunn.
Silenced Gary Groth during a panel at another convention.
Got to hold the original pages of Murphy Anderson's last finished work in my hands.
Met and married someone who puts up with all this.
GMed Champions for Aaron Allston
Made a member of the Order of the White Scarf of Ansteorra in the SCA (it's a fencing thing)
Got paid for writing articles about gaming

Played Champions with Steve Long
Had an adventure published and characters I created appeared in another sourcebook.
Got turned into an NPC for Far West.
Accumulated thousands of books, comics, and RPGs over the past 35+ years.

I'm missing things because memories fade, but the point is, being a geek has afforded me some truly wonderful experiences.  Apart from the stories I've experienced over the years, it's allowed me to meet writers, artists, and actors I admire.  It's given me something I'm genuinely proud of, and nourished my soul.  It's something that's such a part of me, I can't imagine living any other way.

So let your geek flag fly, Gentle Reader.  In whatever way you can.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Meridian Emergent

(Sorry for the lack of updates.  I go on vacation next week, which means I’m trying to get a ton of loose ends wrapped up at work, not the least of which was conducting personnel reviews for my three minions (a first in my career).  As a result, when I wasn’t working at the house in the evening, I was avoiding computers altogether.)

Years ago, I created a superhero setting called “Meridian by Moonlight,” for a short-lived Champions campaign.  The key influences on the setting were “Batman: the Animated Series” (still in first-run) and the Fleischer Bros. “Superman” animated shorts from the 1940s.  Despite the various Dark Deco set dressing, the actual material I wrote for the setting was pretty much a paint-by-numbers approach to city building I’d learned from years of playing Champions.  Looking back on it, there’s a lot I’d do different today, starting with discarding about 75% of the original material, and then adding things that actually made it an interesting superhero setting instead of a simulated city where superheroes can hang out.

Which, I guess, is kind of what I’ve been doing for the past year.  Mostly by accident.  Back when I started making up ICONS characters for this blog, the very first one (Fedora Noir) was just the sort of character I’d always imagined living in Meridian.  So, I wrote her background to include the city.
When I wrote the next one, Blight, I mentioned that EUREKA was Meridian’s leading scientific institution.  It was?  This was news to me at the time, hey, it sounded pretty cool.

So yeah, now I had a whole new aspect of the setting that just showed up from random glurge on the virtual page.  What next?  Soon, I found myself incorporating little bits from “Sins of the Past” (my ICONS adventure), which made sense, since I’d had Meridian in mind when I wrote it.  As I continued, the city and the setting accreted, creating something far more interesting (to me) than my original ideas.

And that’s where I find myself today.  This post is about going back and collecting all the random bits I’ve made up and putting them in one place.  They may not all make sense, but I want to be able to reference them in the future.  So, without further ado, here are the facts of Earth-Meridian, in the order I found them.

  • Fedora Noir is the granddaughter of The Black Fedora, Meridian’s original Midnight Detective.
  • The Midnight Detective Agency – run by Fedora Noir
  • Meridian Star – Newspaper
  • Detective Walt Levinson – Meridian PD, Fedora Noir’s boyfriend
  • Little Augie Caesar – Chimpanzee Crime Lord from “Sins of the Past”
  • EUREKA – Meridian’s leading scientific institute (I don’t know what EUREKA stands for)
  • Rex Radium – Local hero?
  • Blackatoa – Local hero?
  • The Collider – Local heroine?
  • The Day of the Blight – First appearance of the Blight
  • In our world, famous actors go to Japan and shoot cheesy TV commercials. On Earth-Meridian, superheroes appear on "El Juego Más Peligroso" ("The Most Dangerous Game") a cheesy reality show in which they are hunted by the star of the show, a man known only as Huachu (a Quecha word meaning "Orphan.")
  • Stu Murphy is probably the only super-powered dogcatcher in the world.
  • Doctor Cereberus the Science Dog works at EUREKA
  • Doctor Cereberus was created by HADES, which is EUREKA’s opposite number
  • Dumont Family – one of Meridian’s richest families
  • The Deco City – Meridian’s nickname
  • Julia Whitmore – Daughter of the Mayor at the time of the Bowin Opera Hall Fire
  • Bowin Opera Hall – local music venue, burned to the ground in a horrible tragedy that birthed Ripfire
  • When historic moments involving superhumans occur, the Witness is always present.
  • Meridian University – local college
  • Nephilim – Old Testament supernatural monsters
  • The Olympians: A superhero team (presumably local)
  • Rorek the Ice Elf – escaped servitor of the Frost Giants (“Villainomicon”)
  • The Great Summer Blizzard – Isenkriegerin’s first attack on Meridian
  • Time Travel Is Real.  And Insanely Dangerous.
  • Western Yunnan Province is a hellish wasteland.
  • Wei Xiong – China’s official superteam
  • The Many-Angled Ones – Cthulhoid baddies from outside reality
  • Maxwell Demon – 70s rock star (totally stolen from “Velvet Goldmine”)
  • The Elder Dark – A powerful magical entity from outside our reality (perhaps one of the Many-Angled Ones)
  • Al-Gereshki – The Doombringer’s true name
  • WCBN – local TV station
  • WCBN has a superpowered meteorologist
  • Thunderhead – unstatted weather-controlling villain
  • Raymond Gregory – Meridian PD Liaison to the Superhero Community
  • Armbruster Industries – local industrial giant
  • Detective Andrew Drake – local maverick cop
  • The Octofather – local crime boss with an octopus head (ICONS)

Tuesday, July 10, 2012


I totally failed to post yesterday.  I had to revise three employee reviews, and by the time I was done with that, the only thing I wanted to do was ride my stationery bike and watch "Clone Wars."

Tonight's my regular game night, so I hope I'll have time to put something up.  If not, I'll do a double-feature tomorrow.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

They Called Them Ogres...

Yesterday, I took my son to Brick Fiesta 2012, the Texas Lego Enthusiasts' Convention, which was held in Houston this year.  It was mind-blowingly cool.

Not surprisingly, there was a bit of gamer geek overlap, both in the crowd (I saw this t-shirt) and among the participants themselves.  One guy had about a dozen home-built Battletech mechs, ranging from the small ones up to an Atlas.  Another guy had two different versions of an Ogre Mk V: a display model (about a foot long) and a minis-scale one (about three inches).

When I geeked out over them, The Boy asked, "What's an Ogre?"  Which led me to realize I needed to shore up a mighty gap in his education.  How could I have missed it? The boy loves giant robotic death machines.  He likes things that go boom.  Ogre is so firmly in his wheelhouse, I don't know why I never thought to show it to him before.

Probably because I had to root around in the garage to find my copy (still in its little plastic case).

Anyway, today I taught him how to play (of course, he got the Ogre).  Between poor howitzer placement and the worst die rolls in the history of mankind, he pretty well skunked me.  I managed to take out his main battery and one secondary.  He successfully used both missiles and lost a whole two tread boxes when he ran over one of my tanks.

Of course, it's like my wife said, "You know better than to ever give him a giant robot ANYTHING."

(There may be a new ICONS character later tonight, but probably not.  I've got another ICONS-related post rattling around in my head that I want to write soon.)

Saturday, July 7, 2012

Can ICONS Do Gritty?

A sentiment I've seen on occasion is that ICONS is only good for Silver Age-y, bright and shiny superheroics.  I think some of that is due to the artwork in the official products, which is intentionally rather cartoonish.  But the rules themselves are pretty style-agnostic, and cover lethal damage on page 70.  So, really, it's just a matter of perspective and description.  Like anything else in a superhero game, it's a matter of what you want to emphasize.

Which brings us to this charming fellow...

David Armbruster

Prowess  7
Coordination  5
Strength  6
Intellect  5
Awareness  6
Willpower  4

Stamina  10
Determination  2


  Blast Device 4 (Shooting)
  Swinging Device 5
  Invulnerability Device 3

  Catchphrase : "Go Ahead And Run, You'll Just Die Tired."
  Connections : Armbruster Industries
  Connections : Detective Andrew Drake (Maverick Cop)
  Epithet : Scourge of the Streets
  Motivation : Justice

  Enemy : Little Augie Caesar
  Enemy : The Octofather
  Personal : Cruel
  Social : Obsessed

Point Total  47

From birth, David Armbruster was marked for greatness.  His father, Owen Armbruster was a renowned industrialist and philanthropist, but he also subscribed to some unusual notions of child-rearing.  David was raised by a team of specialists, top men and women in their fields.  From an early age, he was put through strenuous physical exercise and training.  His mind was similarly challenged, as were his senses.  In short, David was being raised to achieve the very peak of human potential.  The elder Armbruster did this out of a true sense of public service.  He dreamed that, one day, everyone would benefit from such an regimen and humanity would progress far beyond its current achievements.

As he grew older, David's education included ethics and philosophy, along with the practical skills he would need to one day run his father's company.  In short, he was shaped into a veritable superman.

And then, it all came crashing down.  Owen Armbruster died, cut down by a mobster's bullet in an ill-advised attempt to rob a charity benefit.  For all his education, David lacked the means to cope with the loss of his father.  He became obsessed with justice and with destroying the criminal element in Meridian.  He threw himself harder than ever into his physical training, incorporating martial arts and weapons skills until he became as expert in them as he was in everything else.

Taking up a crossbow (a nod to the Armbruster coat of arms), he donned a costume and stepped into a world of violent retribution.  The criminal underworld would pay for what they took from him. And he won't stop until they're in prison or in the grave.

Can ICONS do gritty?  Hell yes, it can.

Friday, July 6, 2012

They Came From Beneath The Earth!


Prowess  4
Coordination  4
Strength  6
Intellect  5
Awareness  5
Willpower  6

Stamina  12
Determination  *

  Stealth Expert

  Paralysis 4
  Burrowing 5
  Life Support 5 (Breathing, Eating, Heat, Pressure, Radiation)

  Epithet : The Terror From Below!
  Motivation : Kill All Humans!
  Catchphrase: HSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!

  Social : Hideous Monster
  Weakness : Bright Light
  Personal : Controlled by HADES

Point Total  46

Created in a HADES lab, by means unknown, the M.O.R.L.O.C.K.s are bestial brutes with one mission in life:  Kill All Humans!  Their origins are shrouded in mystery; no one can say which twisted mind birthed these foul creatures!  None can say what M.O.R.L.O.C.K. even means!  All we do know is that they come from below!  Infiltrating our cities through the sewers, they live only to prey!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Reap The Whirlwind!

Sharon Robertson

Prowess  2
Coordination  4
Strength  5
Intellect  6
Awareness  6
Willpower  6

Stamina  11
Determination  4

  Aerial Combat
  Science (Meteorology)

  Blast Device 5
  Elemental Control Device 5 (Air)

  Motivation : Protect the Innocent
  Catchphrase : Reap The Whirlwind
  Identity : WCBN Meteorologist Sharon Roberson
  Connections : EUREKA

  Enemy : Thunderhead
  Personal : Loves Raymond Gregory
  Personal : Obsessed With Weather

Point Total  42

Ever since she was a little girl, Sharon Roberson was fascinated by the weather.  She majored in Meteorology, graduating at the top of her class.  With her looks, a career in television was almost guaranteed, but Sharon wanted more.  She took weather and public safety very seriously.  It was this that drove her to seek the assistance of EUREKA in designing a flying suit that would allow her to study weather conditions up close and personal, without the limitations of a conventional aircraft.  The Cyclone suit was a success, and on her first field test, the examination of a tornadic thunderstorm, Sharon encountered Thunderhead, a potent weather controlling villain.  Although she was unprepared for a superhuman encounter, Sharon found herself having to fight for her life in the skies over Meridian!

Thinking quickly, she used the vectored air propulsion system to first protect herself, then blast Thunderhead from the sky.  Within minutes, the villain was in custody and Meridian had its newest superhero.  Sharon still works at the TV station, even though her bosses make her wear her costume on the air.  Her newfound second life has made things difficult in her young marriage, especially since her husband is a police lieutenant tasked with superhero liaison.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Returning to ICONS

A bit less than a year ago (by about four days), a random combination of words inspired me to create an ICONS character.  That post unleashed a burst of creativity that saw me post here pretty regularly for the next few months.  Then things fell off again.  I'm still not where I want to be creatively, but there's an old saying that goes, "Fake it until you make it."  So, I'm going to try to get back into the swing again.  I found a way to once again create the character art I find necessary to my ICONS project, and to celebrate, I present the first in what I hope will be a new series of writeups:

was Ezra Carruthers

Prowess  5
Coordination  5
Strength  9
Intellect  4
Awareness  5
Willpower  4

Stamina  13
Determination  *

  Occult Expert

  Elemental Control 5 (Darkness)
  Binding 5
    Affects Incorporeal

  Epithet : Black Bones, Blacker Deeds
  Motivation : Bring Down The Elder Dark
  Identity : Servant of the Elder Dark

  Social : Horrifying Skeletal Form, Unsettling Aura
  Personal : Insane

Point Total  45

Ezra Carruthers was born into a comfortable, boring upper class existence.  While his family weren't the cream of British society, he wanted for nothing.  Except entertainment.  Nothing ever seemed interesting enough.  He flitted from one hobby to another, one major to another, never settling on anything except his own pleasures.

Then, one night in 1974, backstage after a Maxwell Demon concert, he met the woman who would change everything.  Stacy Lynn Boyd was an American expatriate who called herself "Monica Thorne."  She claimed to be a channel to higher powers, and made quite a stir in the staid (and mostly male) London occult community.  While it wasn't love at first site, both Ezra and Monica saw something in the other.  Ezra found himself entranced not only with the exotic beauty, but with the new world she opened up to him.  Monica saw in Ezra something of far greater value: a potential host for a great supernatural power.

For Monica, it should be noted, was anything but a poseur.  She'd summoned her first demon when most girls were having their sweet sixteen party.  By age eighteen, she'd allied herself with something she called the Elder Dark, a powerful magical entity from outside our reality.  Although the time for the Elder Dark to fully manifest in our world was decades, if not centuries away, she believed by bringing forth his mightiest servitor, she might hasten the process.

For months, Monica kept Ezra entranced, dangling tidbits of mystical knowledge before him, and indulging his physical lusts.  On All Hallows eve, she led him to a gathering of her coven, in the wilds of Cornwall, ostensibly to initiate him into her cult, but in truth, to summon Al-Gereshki, called the Doombringer, Herald of the Elder Dark.  On that storm-lashed hillside, Ezra Carruthers ceased to be.  Stripped of all flesh, his bones turned to obsidian, a malevolent mad intelligence took up residence in his skull.

Although Thorne's cult was discovered, defeated, and scattered, the Doombringer remains firmly a part of this reality.  Driven solely by a desire to bring about the time when the Elder Dark can manifest, it launches its own plots to wreak terror, but also joins up with those it deems advance its cause.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Dice. Bag.

My current go-to set:

I change out dice according to whims of mood or bad luck.  These are some Gamescience polys I bought a few years ago.  The inking on them stank, so I took a yellow crayon to them.

They go in here:

It's nothing special, but it's the same bag I've used since I got it as a present on Xmas day, 1980.  Just simple black suede leather.  It's probably as close to a personal totem or fetish that I have, as I've pretty much carried it constantly in whatever book bag I've had for the past 30+ years.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Finding The Path To Adventure

Back in December, I bought my son the Pathfinder Beginner Box as a Xmas present.  Unfortunately, he received a couple of video games as presents, so it got relegated to the "Interesting, but not a video game" pile.  I, on the other hand, read it and found it pretty nifty.

Fast forward a few months and the boy asked me out of the blue when we were going to game again.  I told him I didn't know (because my last few attempts at getting a group together to play at the house haven't met with much success) but I'd see what I could do.

The more I thought about it, the more I was convinced we could just do something one-on-one with the PBB.  After looking over the character sheets, I really couldn't see a reason why he couldn't just run all of the PCs and I'd do the GMing duties.  With my wife out of town for the weekend, we sat down this morning and played through the module that came in the box.

(And yes, I said "played through."  We completed the entire thing in about three hours.  Four combat encounters and a couple of roleplay/diplomacy/problem-solving encounters.  It played pretty fast.)

The heroes of Sandpoint braved the dark depths, slew goblins, a spider, a fell water beast, dispatched undead, and drove off Blackfang, a most vicious and vile black dragon.  Along the way, they befriended a tribe of squabbling goblins by returning a treasured toy to them, and completely misunderstood the purpose of a magic fountain.

I've been impressed with the physical quality of the PBB from the beginning, but this was my first chance to put it through its paces.  Of course, I've been playing Pathfinder for a couple of years now, but it was my first time GMing it.  The adventure provides an excellent mix of combat and non-combat encounters, the challenges were appropriately threatening without being overwhelming (Blackfang got off one acid blast: it dropped the fighter to 3 HP and the cleric to 0, which created a rather tense moment).  Even though the boy was playing all the PCs, each one had multiple opportunities to shine (or fail).

He wants to play some more. I guess I need to see about scaring up some more players (his age or otherwise).

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Bree Yark, Bree Yark! It's A Helluva Town!

So, I playtested 5th Ed/DNDNext this evening.  I had a jolly good time playing Feredir the Blatant, an orange-haired, orange-robed Elven Wizard (on the spur of the moment, I decided The Blatant are an order of Elven Wizards who believe magic should be anything but subtle.  Thus, the orange robes, which stand out in their sylvan glades).

We killed the goblin leadership and the rest of their mangy bunch declared us their new chiefs.  We tried taking on the hobgoblins, but had to turn tail and run before clearing out the kobold nest.

Overall, this felt more like D&D than anything I've played in the past decade, with the exception of Castles & Crusades. With four players, we got through multiple fights, and covered quite a bit of real estate over the course of four or so adventuring days.

About the only thing I didn't like was that for most of the forays into the caves, I didn't feel like my character was in much danger.  In two expeditions into the goblin complex, including the ogre fight, I only lost four hit points total, and with the ability to heal back overnight, I didn't feel particularly inconvenienced.

Other than that, I can't really complain.  Also, I came up with a "terrific" song to commemorate the event.

Bree-Yark, Bree-Yark!
It's a helluva town,
The catacomb's up,
And the dungeon is down!
It's deep dank foetid
Hole in the ground!
Bree-Yark, Bree-Yark!
It's a helluva town!

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Presenting: The Starchild!

A couple of months ago, I took part in an actual play podcast for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.  That led to an invite to take part in an ongoing series featuring Mutants & Masterminds.  This past week, I recorded a character generation session, available here.

Because I didn't have anything in particular I wanted to play, and to honor last year's ICONS exercise, I decided to use the Quickstart Character Generator, included in the M&M Gamemaster's Kit.  You can hear the full process on the podcast, but here's the result:

Starchild - PL 10

Strength 0, Stamina 1, Agility 1, Dexterity 2, Fighting 1, Intellect 4, Awareness 6, Presence 4

Defensive Roll 7, Evasion 2, Improved Defense, Improved Initiative, Leadership, Set-up 2

Deception 8 (+12), Expertise: Astronomy 4 (+8), Perception 4 (+10), Persuasion 1 (+5), Stealth 8 (+9)

Cosmic Flight: Flight 5 (Speed: 60 miles/hour, 900 feet/round; Distracting)

Mental Attack Powers
   Inflict Blindness: Affliction 8 (1st degree: Impaired, 2nd degree: Disabled, 3rd degree: Unaware, Resisted by: Will, DC 18; Increased Range 2: perception)
   Mental Blast: Damage 6 (DC 21; Alternate Resistance: Will, Increased Range 2: perception)
   Mental Paralysis: Affliction 8 (1st degree: Dazed, 2nd degree: Stunned, 3rd degree: Paralyzed, Resisted by: Will, DC 18; Increased Range 2: perception)

Mind Reading: Mind Reading 5 (DC 15; Linked: Telepathy: Mental Area Communication 3)

Precognitive Reactions: Enhanced Fighting 1 (+1 FGT, Advantages: Defensive Roll 7, Evasion 2, Improved Defense, Improved Initiative)

Telepathy: Mental Area Communication 3 (Area, Linked: Mind Reading: Mind Reading 5)

Initiative +5
Grab, +1 (DC Spec 10)
Inflict Blindness: Affliction 8 (DC Will 18)
Mental Blast: Damage 6 (DC Will 21)
Mental Paralysis: Affliction 8 (DC Will 18)
Mind Reading: Mind Reading 5 (DC Will 15)
Throw, +2 (DC 15)
Unarmed, +1 (DC 15)
Enemy: ???: There are those whose awareness of Simon's alien parentage far exceeds his.  And although he is unaware of them, they are constantly monitoring his movements and his actions.  To what end?

Identity: In reality, Starchild is Simon Stern, an incoming freshman at Beacon University.  He hides his identity until such time as he completely understands his extraterrestrial heritage.

Motivation: Acceptance: Simon has been an outsider all his life: the child of a single mother (whom everyone in their small town considered insane), a brainy telepath in Coal Country.  In short, everything in his life to date has branded him as an outsider.  Beacon City represents his chance to change all that.

Motivation: Doing Good: Having grown up bullied, Simon is a firm believe in standing up for justice.  Back home, he couldn't use his powers to defend himself for fear of exposure.  Now, he can finally do something for the oppressed and downtrodden.

Quirk: When Simon uses his powers, his eye turn pitch black and seem to be filled with swirling spiral galaxies.  He's gotten reasonably good at concealing it, but if someone notices, it's obvious he's not a normal human being.


Dodge 12, Parry 12, Fortitude 4, Toughness 8/1, Will 10

Power Points
Abilities 36 + Powers 69 + Advantages 3 + Skills 13 (25 ranks) + Defenses 29 = 150

Everyone back in Morgansville knew that Maisy Stern was nuts even before she started claiming the UFO came down and got her.  Everyone knew she'd just run off to Pittsburgh with some fella she met somewhere, and when she had that little boy a few months later, that just proved it.

Of course, no one really cared about her enough to do the math and realize she'd only run off three months earlier and she wasn't pregnant then.  But the good people of Morgansville had better things to do than worry about Crazy Maisy.

Maisy knew better, of course.  She wasn't crazy. Not most of the time, anyway.  And she remembered everything.  Her car stopping dead in the middle of a backroad.  The bright shining light coming out of the sky.  And him...he was tall, and slim, and wore silver and green, and his eyes were like looking into the night sky.  He spoke without speaking and called her to him.  They flew off in his ship and she saw the world from space...

Simon grew up hearing this story at least once a week, almost daily once Mama figured out he was different.  The worst part was, he knew it was true the first time he accidentally read her mind.

Growing up in Morganville was an exercise in survival for anyone who didn't fit in with the miners' kids, and Simon definitely didn't fit in.  By the time he learned to control his powers, he'd already alienated his peers.  The best he could hope for was to use them subtly, to avoid the worst of the beatings and to keep his grades up (it's hard to fail a test when you can read the teachers' minds). 

His grades got him a scholarship to Beacon City U., where he plans to major in Astronomy and maybe put his heritage to a good use.  As the campaign begins, he's newly arrived in the big city...

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Yeah, I'm a Lemming

I won't lie to you, Marge.  I've been looking forward to the open playtest of D&D Next for a while.  Not champing at the bit, but eager to see what they come up with.  A lot of the buzz on the street (so to speak) gave the indication that WotC figured out they'd lost the soul of the game.  4e is a terrific piece of game design, and I've enjoyed our ongoing game, but it doesn't feel like D&D to me.  Even 3/3.5/Pathfinder is usually too complicated and involved for me to really enjoy it.  The closest I've gotten to what feels "right" to me is Castles & Crusades, and it's got its own set of issues.

At this point, I've only managed to download the playtest docs, load them on my iPad, and take the briefest of looks at them on a bathroom break (lunch is still an hour away), but it looks pretty promising.  It seems simple and clean and, at first glance, the character roles look like what I expect from Dungeons & Dragon, not from game pieces designed to fill tactical roles.  Hopefully, I can give it a read through at lunch and get a better idea of what's going on.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I'm A Cowb...erm...A Samur...uhhh...I'm Awesome!

A while back, I helped back the Kickstarter for Gareth Skarka's brainchild Far West, an epic mashup of two things I dearly love:  Spaghetti Westerns and Wuxia films.  Thanks to my support level, I got to submit some photos to be turned into an NPC illustration.  A few weeks ago, they put up a preview of some of these portraits, a fact I managed to miss until this evening.  It turns out that one of the previews was this here handsome feller:

At this point, I've no idea who this guy is, but I'm dying to find out.

Monday, May 7, 2012

A Brief, But Hopefully Informative, Rant

Dear Artists and Art Directors:

Far be it from me to tell you your work.  I myself struggled through six hours of college level art classes before I decided my aspirations far outstripped my talent.  I've messed around enough with art and layout and the associated subjects to know that I lack all but the most rudimentary chops in that regard.

However, I do know quite a bit about the use of Renaissance weaponry, the rapier in particular.  I've been fencing in a period style for over twenty years, and while I'm no expert among my peers, I think I know more about this subject than 9/10ths of the gaming/fantasy reading public.  So please, I ask you, take the following under advisement.

This is NOT how you hold a rapier:

You see all the ironworks up there ahead of the quillons (the cross of the hilt)?  That's to protect your finger or fingers when you do this:

Or this:

You might not think moving the hand up all of an inch or so and wrapping a finger or two around the quillons would make much difference, but in terms of balance, weight management (period rapiers are fairly hefty), and accuracy, it is simply EVERYTHING.

And while we're on the subject, this:

Is not only wrong, it's actively painful after less than a minute.

So when depicting someone using a rapier, please do a few minutes' research and get the grip right.  To my eyes, there's nothing worse than looking an illustration of an alleged master swordsman and seeing him holding the sword like the lever on a slot machine.

And while we're generally on the subject, here's how you hold the dagger when fighting rapier and dagger:

You put the point out toward your opponent.  If the dagger has any sort of hand protection, it should cover the BACK of the hand.  There's a natural inclination to put it over the fingers.  They're actually pretty well protected by the blade itself and the positioning of same.  The back of the hand and the lower arm are much more vulnerable, hence the ring/shell/other blocking thingie.

Here's the same grip, viewed from the other side (palm up):

Thus endeth the ranting.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Sniff Sniff...Smells Like Dice. A Whole Lotta Dice

So, this arrived today:

After my initial test of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, I decided it wouldn't hurt to have a lot more dice.  But dice are kind of pricey, at least if you go through normal gamer channels.  But, as it turns out, there is an alternative source for dice in bulk.

Teachers' Suppliers.

Turns out, polyhedral dice are still marketed as educational tools.  And, as long as you don't care about aesthetics, you can get a bag of sixty (60) dice for under twenty five bucks with shipping.  That's ten complete sets.  Here's how they looked when I aired them out.

Anyway, if you need a bunch of dice, either for your game system of choice for loaner sets or whatever, this seems like an excellent inexpensive option.  Here's a link to the set on the vendor's, EAI Education, webpage.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Pretty Snazzy

So, one of those games I've always regretted not really grokking is Exalted.  On the surface, it's got a lot of things I should totally get into: crazy martial arts, over the top heroes, ancient vistas, mythic resonance.  But the rules have always gotten in the way of my good time.

As it turns out, what I think I really needed was a good tutorial.  Someone who knew how to play the game to show me what to do.  And, lo and behold, that someone has arrived.  Behold: Exalted: Becoming - A Tutorial, an absolutely fantastic web-based solo adventure that takes you through every par of the game.  You can even save it and return later.  So far, my character has investigated a ruined temple, sparred with her Sifu, and killed some soldiers who were busting up her ex-wife's tavern.  Also, she just Exalted, so shit's about to get really, real.

Anyway, this is a fantastic resource, and a lot of fun to play.  All the dice rolls are generated by the page, but shown so you can see what's going on.

In short, it's great, and I think I'm actually beginning to understand how the game's supposed to be played.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Currently Playing

Time for a sporadic update from the wilderness, if only to discuss what I'm actually doing, gaming-wise.

Our Tuesday group has had some schedule disruptions lately, but we're still plugging away on the Pathfinder "Dawn of the Temple of Elemental Evil" campaign.  At present, we're clearing out a nasty undead infestation in Ostwerk.  To be honest, I've kind of lost the plot a bit in this game.  I never really meshed with my second character, Sir Bors, after Einar died.  A few sessions back, I realized I was spending most of the game surfing the net on my laptop, which housed Bors' character data (via HeroLab).  To try to counter this, I moved all of the info over to a hand-written character sheet.  It seems to have helped a bit.

Our Sunday group is on a brief hiatus from 4e.  A few weeks ago, we completed the Heroic Tier in grand fashion and are preparing for new quests in a completely different part of the world.  I've decided to retire my bard, Pseudolus, in favor of Rashid, "The Laughing Blade," an El-Adrin Swordmage (El-Adrin, of course, are Eladrin, but with an Arabian Knights vibe).  But that's a few sessions off still. 

In the meantime, we're playing Spirit of the Century, under the GMing auspices of Jess, who has a sourcebook for the game coming out at some point in the not-too-distant future.  His book is on international pulps and "non-standard," (read: not white and male) pulp heroes from the period.  For this game, he put together a bunch of actual examples of "non-standard" pulp characters for us to choose from, ranging from Rin-Tin-Tin to Myrna Loy (Yes, the actress.  Turns out there was a series of mystery pulps that featured her as a character) to Ragaboush (an Algerian con artist).  I'm playing "The White Rose," meek and mild Chinese schoolgirl by day, asskicking Wuxia by night.  Other members of the group include the aforementioned Rin-Tin-Tin, Chick Carter (the son of Nick Carter), The Laughing Monk, and Anton Weird - Diviner of Destinies.  Last night was the first session (and the first time most of the group had played FATE) and it came off pretty well, if only to see Rin-Tin-Tin heroically piloting a zeppelin to safety.

Next up for the Tuesday game is Champions.  I'll be reviving Lodestone, an old character of mine I actually stuck in "Sins of the Past."  He's a two-fisted archaeologist who wields a mystical rod capped with the Shining Trapezohedron.  It should be fun.

On the GMing front, I'm still fairly stymied.  Between my own schedule, the schedules of likely players, and my scattershot interests, I really haven't figured out what or when I'm going to run another game.  I'm keen on doing something Urban Fantasy or Horror, but settling on a system, a setting, and everything else remains elusive at this point.  Maybe things will settle down a bit in May.

Friday, March 23, 2012

My First "Published" Work

In the past, I've talked about "Sins of the Past," my ICONS adventure from Adamant a few times.  But it wasn't my first work in the gaming industry. Prior to that, I sold a couple of articles to HERO Games for Digital HERO, their PDF house organ.

But before that, there was this little piece, originally composed in 1997 or '98, originally for the Haymaker! APA mailing list, then for the Deadlands mailing list a few years later.  Shane Hensley saw it on the DL list and liked it so much that he asked if he could put it on their website.  Flattered, I immediately agreed, and Pinnacle became my "first publisher."

Deadlands in Cannibal Country With Larry
A True Story, by Theron Bretz

OK, a few people asked me to post this.  If it bores or infuriates you, well, you know where your delete button is.

The following tale is as true as I can tell it. Like any mutually shared, life-changing disaster, some aspects may have taken on mythic qualities. Proceed at your own risk....
 It all began with a call from one of my gaming buddies, Justin D. We'd been talking about Deadlands for a while, as we were both experiencing a bit of gaming down-time. The problem was that the Deadlands system was, to say the least, a bit unorthodox from our perspective (we're long-time Champions/Hero System grunts), and neither one of us wanted to be the guy who had to read all the rules and implement them for a bunch of people who'd never played before.

It looked like we had the perfect solution when Justin found someone looking for a group to GM for. He seemed enthusiastic about the game and the setting, and claimed to be a big Joe R. Lansdale fan (a huge plus as far as I was concerned). We'll call this fellow -- Larry (for that was his name). We made plans to play the following weekend, and Justin's friend Pete V. would join us as well. Pete's a great guy, but I didn't know the depths of his character until we faced the coming tribulations together.

Having been given no guidelines for character creation, I came up with a half-dozen concepts to bounce of the GM. The next day, Justin picked me and Pete up and we headed off to Larry's house.

I should note at this time that Houston is the fourth largest city in the United States. It is a huge, sprawling metropolis, with gleaming skyscrapers and comfortable suburbs. At no time did the vehicle we traveled in leave the city limits.

And yet, we turned off a major thoroughfare right into the heart of Arkansas Cannibal Country. Kudzu covered the fences between houses. Dogs lived under porches. Cars on blocks grew rusty in front yards. And there at the end of this displaced street stood a clapboard house. With kudzu all over the fences, and dogs under the porch, and two cars in the yard. And a bearded fellow in a wheelchair waving at us from the porch.

No, this was not Larry, it was his older brother, who apparently had some sort of neuromuscular disorder. I mention him not in any way to disparage the differently-abled, but to emphasize precisely how creepy things were already getting. And, drawn by the barking dogs, out came Larry. 

 In the past few years, Justin, Pete and I have tried to come up with the proper words to describe Larry. Lacking them, we keep coming back to "pasty-faced doughboy". This is, again, not intended to disparage either the pale, or the overweight, but man, he looked just like a twenty year old Pop 'n Fresh. He immediately noticed my SCA t-shirt and made a disparaging comment about it. I shrugged it off saying something about how the SCA isn't for everyone and let it slide. He introduced us to his brother, and asked us in.

At this point, you're either reading this with rapt horror wondering what happened next, or your wondering "why is Theron wasting our time with this non-game stuff". Frankly, because it's all part of the story and I can't tell it any shorter.

We then met Larry's parents. It became immediately apparent that Larry was a "LATE in life project" for these two, who both are past retirement age. While they seemed pleasant enough, I could feel them sizing me up for chops and ribs when my back was turned.

Larry then told us how excited he was to get this "balls to the wall" campaign off the ground. He'd mostly played live-action Vampire lately (there's a picture for your mental scrapbook) and was eager to tear into the Weird West. He led us to his "Inner Sanctum" (his bedroom) so we could talk in private.

Picture a 10' x 10' room (you're a gamer, that should be easy). Put a large Confederate flag on one wall. Put an even larger series of 80s hair metal band posters on the other one. Add lots of comic books, with the recent Jonah Hex mini-series prominently displayed. Add that funky smell of living socks you find in most dorm rooms. You are now in Larry's "Inner Sanctum". Did I mention it was 10' x 10'? Did I mention Larry was a bit heavy? Or that Justin, Pete and I are all over 6' tall and not exactly twig-like in our conformation? Did I mention the door was shut? I forget who it was who suggested we move to the gaming table, but he was a saint.

Meanwhile, Larry was telling us about this "kick ass NPC" he's including in the game. In describing this character, I realize he's basically taken Jonah Hex, filed off the serial numbers, transformed him into a dork, and re-named him "Dusty Blood". Or as we immediately began to refer to him, Jonah Heck.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Something like, "Theron, you guys weren't even giving him a chance. You can't expect everyone to like the same things you do, or play the same style you do." And you're almost right. We really were trying to give him a chance, it's just that all the signals were wrong. Something that will become more apparent when you read Part Two....

[NOTE: This was originally composed in two parts, due to limitations of old-school mail programs]

Still reading? I'm amazed. Usually this story is told out loud, so I can always yell at someone to sit down and shut up if they try and leave...

But I digress. At this point, we unveiled our characters. Justin was playing a fire 'n brimstone preacher who lived on a diet of cheap cigars and cheaper whiskey. Pete was playing a Union deserter who headed west, and I settled on playing an Arizona cowboy who was traveling north to find work. Larry was of course using Dusty Blood as a GM-controlled PC. He set things up so that Pete and I were traveling together through Kansas and came across a campfire set up by Justin and Jonah Heck. Despite the fact that it was just past
sunset and we were approaching a campfire from the east, Dusty picked us out with no trouble whatsoever. He immediately derided Pete for being a "Damned Yankee" (Dusty was Confederate, y'know), despite the fact that no deserter I know of would still be wearing his uniform a year after he went AWOL. We shrugged these things off in order to get things moving (see, we were giving him a chance, just like you asked).

I should point out that we were playing at Larry's kitchen table. Approximately eight feet away, his parents and brother sat in the "TV room", watching religious broadcasting on UHF, sort of like Otto's parents in "Repo Man," only about a hundred years older. Now, I have nothing against organized religion, but it just added to the whole sensation of being a lamb led to the slaughter. I swear they had a sausage grinder out the shed with my name on it.

After trading pleasantries (which amounted to Larry telling us Dusty's life story), we bedded down for the night. For no apparent reason, my character was visited with a strange dream. In the dream, I saw a "crystal staff with feathers at one end" (sort of like what you see in every frickin' Larry Elmore painting), and heard an eerie voice saying, "Return the staff...Return the staff". Clearly, this adventure had something to do with
retrieving and returning a magic staff, possibly to the Forgotten Realms.

Needless to say, I was now entirely pumped up for the coming adventure <*sigh*>.

The next day, we rode into the nearest town, which was apparently abandoned. After looking around a bit, we found out why. The place was crawling with the animated corpses of Sioux warriors. Thinking that Sioux zombies are, at the least, a step in the right direction, we set about combating them. At which point, Larry told us all to roll 1d20 for initiative.

Those of you who've actually played Deadlands may be curious about this particular interpretation of the initiative system. Frankly, given that d20 Deadlands hadn't been so much as considered at this point, I must admit, so was I. So curious, in fact, that I asked Larry about it. To which he replied, "Well, I read over that part last night ,but I really didn't understand it. I was hoping you guys knew the rules." 

Well, there you have it. The only reason we took this mission, all shot to hell. Larry continued, "I guess I'm a good enough GM to just wing it and run things free-style today. Roll 1d20 for initiative."

So roll I did, and got a one. Larry rolled in the high teens for his undead Sioux. Looking down at my feeble digit, I uttered the words that still remain the epitaph of that wasted afternoon, "Oh, great. I'm slower than a dead Indian."

At this point, things became a bit of a blur. I remember that the three of us (Jonah Heck having slipped off somewhere in the fray) were having the devil's own time putting down one of these walking dead Lakota. I remember going through a plate glass window and getting all cut up. I remember Pete's character getting struck by a tomahawk. And I remember FINALLY putting down this one undead warrior. But, for the life of me, I don't remember how.

Subsequently, we found ourselves out on the street in front of the saloon. An undead warrior on a skeletal horse came galloping by, almost riding down our preacher. Of course good ole' Dusty Blood put him down in the nick of time, saying something like "and that makes an even dozen." Meanwhile, Larry ruled that Justin's, how to put it...soiled himself when confronted by the charging Indian, this in spite of all we'd already been through.

This was pretty much the final straw for me. Reaching down to my waist, I surreptitiously reset my pager so it would go off on a test beep. I looked down and said, "Oh, damn, that's Jane. She told me she might be leaving work early. Guys, I hate to do this, but we've got to go get her." Justin and Pete, their eyes alight with the sudden prospect of freedom from this little slice of Hell quickly agreed. We'd been at Larry's house for less than two hours.

[Whenever I tell this story, Jane makes me point out that she did not, in fact, need a ride home from work, like some minimum wage burger-jockey. She worked in a 46 story office tower at the time, did not work weekends, and certainly didn't need a ride anywhere. I love you, Honey.]

Of course, there was more. Larry just had to tell us how the adventure was supposed to turn out.  Apparently a Ghost Rock miner had uncovered a magic crystal staff that was sacred to the Sioux and taken it. After that, the uneasy dead warriors arose from their burial ground under the lake just outside town (yes, you read that right, they were buried under the lake). We were supposed to recover the staff, put it back wherever it actually belonged (possibly the Forgotten Realms), and make things right. Of course, what a miner was doing in Kansas when Ghost Rock was found in the Black Hills and on the west coast escaped Larry. Along with the fact that the Sioux didn't traditionally go for aquatic funerals or crystal staves, but
never mind those little details. Freedom beckoned and we ran for it.

We drove away there in silence, as if each of us was trying to come to terms with what we'd been through. Finally, Pete said, "Man, that was f***** up. Anybody want to get some wings?" In the face of such wisdom, the only possible answer was, "Yes." And so we went, to eat wings, heal our wounds, and lick our fingers.

I've since tried to find the street on which this happened.  All I find are quiet suburban streets, elementary schools, and strip malls.  No kudzu, no clapboard houses, no cars in yards.  It's as if the universe itself healed the rift that allowed Larry and his ilk into our reality.

I just realized that was fifteen years ago and I've STILL never actually gotten to play Deadlands.  There ain't no justice.

Some years later, I was at Origins and bought something from Shane at the Pinnacle booth.  He looked at my name tag and said, "Theron...your name is familiar."

"Yeah, I wrote 'Deadlands In Cannibal Country With Larry.'"

He immediately grabbed his wife and introduced me as the guy who wrote the Larry story.  Apparently it was a favorite of theirs.

And that's why I will buy every edition of Savage Worlds Shane produces.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Fanboy Says, "SQUEE!"

So, I was remiss in checking the mail yesterday and just got around to it this evening.

This was waiting for me:

Now, I can read it in the bathtub!

(I love my iPad, but that's the one downside.  I'm an inveterate tub reader, and I'm just not about to risk getting it wet.)

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Old Dog Learns New Trick

There are a few things to know about my gaming tastes:

I am first and foremost, a tabletop RPGer.  Everything else is very secondary.

I don't play much in the way of computer or video games.  I don't seem to have the patience for them.

I hate card games.  OK, hate is a pretty strong word, but I really don't like any card game more complex than Guillotine or Chez Dork.

However, as you may have noticed, if you've read this blog before, I really, really like superhero games.  So, it was with mixed feelings (though more optimistic than not) that I approached yesterday's Game Night.  Our Pathfinder GM was out of town on Spring Break (along with about half our crew).  While I offered to run Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, I knew it would be a tough sale, as one of the guys present really hates playing supers games in any existing continuity.  And, sure enough, he kiboshed the idea.

However, he offered an alternative in the form of Sentinels of the Multiverse, a cooperative card game of superhero combat.  He'd backed the Kickstarter for the original version and had played it a bit and thought we'd dig it.  Given that everyone else was on board, I decided to give it a shot.


The game, which retails for about $40 (less on Amazon) comes with something like 600 cards.  You get ten Superhero decks, each one representing powers and abilities unique to its hero; four Supervillain decks (ditto); and four Environments (which work similarly).  There's no deck construction, collectibility, or anything else.  You pick a hero, grab his or her deck, decide on a villain, decide on an environment and jump into play.

(The cards, by the way, are great.  They're illustrated in a full color cartoony style and each one comes with an accompanying quote from a fictional comic book featuring the hero.)

Each hero deck is designed to play differently, in terms of the powers provided and the effects they generate.  For instance, I played The Wraith (sort of a Batwoman-ish type).  My deck largely provided equipment, which could be used to attack villains or overcome environmental hazards, or other effects appropriate to the character.  For instance, one card "Trust Fund" allowed me to draw four cards and then discard any two from my hand.  In the first game, this allowed The Wraith to load up on equipment very quickly.  Her Utility Belt, once it came into play, let her use two powers per turn, further bolstering her effectiveness.  In the second game, the Trust Fund never came up, and thanks to environmental hazards, she was scraping the bottom for equipment every turn.

As mentioned, it's a cooperative game, so staging effects can become very important, as well as understanding how the sequence of play work.  Unlike, say, Wrath of Arshadalon, where the victory conditions require the entire party survive in order to win, Sentinels of the Multiverse is pretty much just concerned with defeating the bad guy.  But unlike Wrath, this is far less of a certainty.  Our first battle, using the easiest villain and the safest environment was a relative cake-walk.  Our second, against a sentient robotics factory on Dinosaur Island was an absolute nail-biter.  Pretty much from the start we got pounded.  No one could draw a decent set of powers and when we did, something would happen with the environment to mess them up.  We finally turned it around in the final ten minutes of the night, but there were several points where I thought we were goners.  The game's owner said that it's designed to beat players, and the challenge was palpable.

Anyway, the long and short of it is, today, I ordered a copy for myself.  If you like superhero battles that can play out about an hour, or challenging co-op games with excellent replay value, you should get it too.

Here's the company that produces it:  Greater Than Games

You can also get it on Amazon.