Wednesday, August 17, 2016


What fictional character would best fit in your group?

It's terribly trite, but any of the main characters from "Big Bang Theory" would probably do fine with my Tuesday Nighters. As it is, the group contains two Physics Ph.D.s, a Chemistry Ph.D., and an Engineer.  Plus a couple of IT guys and some stray English majors.  It's a pretty brainy, nerdy set.

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

#RPGADAY Day Fifteen

What historical character would you like in your group? For what game?

Putting aside "Little Wars" with H. G. Wells (it was the first wargame rules I ever read), which could be fun, I'm thinking something like The One Ring with Christopher Lee. I don't know how much of it would be game and how much of it would be Tolkien discussion group, but I suspect it would be delightful.

Monday, August 15, 2016

#RPGADAY Day Fifteen

Your best source for inspiration for RPG's?

The internet. I'm an idea sponge, it's my blessing and my curse. All it takes is a link to a video, a random piece of art, or a book/TV/movie recommendation, and I'm down the rabbit hole.

Unfortunately, I rarely maintain sufficient focus to see things through, so my attention is constantly bouncing from one cool thing to the next.  The good news I retain a lot of it, so I can pull out something useful pretty much whenever I need it.

Sunday, August 14, 2016

#RPGADAY Day Fourteen

Your dream team of people you used to game with?

Interesting question. I don't know about a "dream team," but there are folks I gamed with in the past I'd love to sit down at the same table with again.

Chris Hall was one of my early Champions GMs, as well as a player in some of my games back in the early 80s. We lost touch for the better part of thirty years and have only recently reconnected. He doesn't play games anymore, which is a pity.

Charlie Russell was a regular in my San Antonio games and always fun to have around. We've lost touch altogether, which truly sucks, because I think he'd dig Feng Shui.

Kyle Bennick was one of the first gamers I met when I moved to Houston. He's still in the area, though in Houston terms, "in the area" means he lives about sixty miles away. He's also got two young twins, so I don't think he's doing much gaming anymore.

Mason Hart used to be part of my Tuesday crew, and our gaming styles were pretty sympatico (especially compared to the tactically heavy approach that predominates in that group). When his second kiddo was born, he dropped out of the Tuesday crew, though he still plays with another group.

I miss playing regularly with my wife, Jane. Over the last ten years, she developed significant anxiety regarding math, which seriously impacts her ability to enjoy RPGs. We've come up with a few work-arounds, but it's not where her interests are now, and I understand.

Last, I've got say Aaron Allston. Because he'd still be around. :(

#RPGADAY Day Thirteen (Late)

What Makes a Successful Campaign?

First and foremost, I can't be GMing it. Seriously, I haven't had a game go past three or four sessions in more years than I care to admit. Now, to be fair, I'm not wholly to blame. My last few attempts have fallen afoul of work schedules, holidays, and an unplanned hospitalization. But after a while, it starts to weigh on a person.

So, with that in mind, I do have an understanding of what it takes to make a campaign work, even if I haven't succeeded in a while:

GM Dedication: This should be obvious. If the GM is unfocused, or uncommitted, the game is going to fail. Maybe not immediately, but sooner than later.

Player Buy-In: The player's have to be on-board as well. For the campaign premise, for the rules system, for making time to play, and for spending hours in the company of the other players.

A Regular Schedule: Every game I know that works long-term has a schedule the players and GM abide by. It's a part of their routine, not something they squeeze into their busy schedules. This is an aspect of dedication and buy-in, but it's worth calling out separately.

Rituals:  My Tuesday group meets for dinner at 5:45 (having hashed out the location earlier), eats until 6:45, then drives over to our venue (Rice University) and play until 10 PM. Meeting and eating helps us get the socializing and cutting up out of the way, but it also provides a nice secondary bit of continuity with the group.

Communication: Do I really need to say more about this? Nah. Communicate, nerds!

Friday, August 12, 2016


What Game Is Your Group Most Likely To Play Next, and Why?

Define next. Define group.

I'm on an extended (and completely amicable) break from my Tuesday night crew. Part is due to other obligations, but most of it is their heavy investment in Pathfinder. Currently the "A Game" is the final stages of "Rise of the Runelords," a campaign I played in for a considerable time, while the "B Game" a different adventure path, something having to do with winter. I played in a few sessions of that one, which was kind of when my exhaustion with Pathfinder really became apparent.

For the time being, Pathfinder is the only thing on the menu. There's discussion of other games (and I've mentioned a few I'd be willing to run), but until "Runelords" is done, there's not going to be serious discussion of anything else.

My Sunday group is on hiatus due to our DM having other commitments on his time. I offered to run something at my place (probably D&D 5e), though I haven't gotten sufficient buy-in from the players to put anything on the schedule. If I do go that way, I'd hope to use 5e to facilitate an old-school play approach, something my 5e folks don't have a lot of exposure to. I'm thinking about converting the dungeon out of the Holmes Basic box as a starting point.

In the meantime, I'm most likely to play FFG's "Rebel Assault" with my son this weekend. I bought it a few weeks ago and need to figure out how it's played.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

#RPGADAY Day Eleven

Which gamer that you have played with has most affected the way that you play?

I'm gonna cheat here, because I only played with this person twice, but his impact on my gaming was incalculable.  That person would be Aaron Allston.  I was lucky enough to GM a couple of Champions games he played in back in '92.  We had fun, and he was a blast to have at the table.  

Of course, his impact on me came from his work as a game designer. His Strike Force is still the Gold Standard for showing how to run a supers game.  Of course, his influence extends beyond Champions. He wrote "The Grand Duchy of Karameikos" for D&D's Mystara, one of my favorite adventure settings. His "Dungeon Master's Design Kit" is a brilliant (and underrated) step-by-step guide to creating adventures and campaigns. He also compiled the D&D Rules Compendium, no mean feat.

So, a bit of a cheat, but an honest one.

Honorable Mention goes to HERO guy, L. Douglas Garrett, who ran the "Justice, Inc." game that showed me how to run games in a cinematic fashion.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


Largest In-Game Surprise You Have Experienced

Probably that time Charon when tore his face off, as I noted a few months back in "Superhumans I Have Known (and, on occasion, been)":

Oh, man, Charon. This was in a campaign I was actually playing instead of running, so I got to see this stuff from that side of the screen. Charon claimed to be the figure from Greek myth. Claimed. Thing was, he was basically a happy-go-lucky, vaguely Mediterranean brick. Nothing about him said “Boatman of the Dead.” He talked like one of the “Wild and Crazy Guys” from that old SNL sketch. He was, frankly, kind of a joke.
Then, about six or seven sessions into the campaign, he got captured by Arnim Zola (yeah, really). He was very well-secured, his strength completely nullified. At that point, his player looked at the GM and said, “It’s time to drop the mask.”  He then proceeded to describe, in horrible detail, exactly how the flesh melted away from Charon’s body, revealing a bloody skeletal visage.  The skeletal form was a horrifying engine of destruction, and it broke Zola’s captivity with ease (also the dude’s mind). It was exactly the sort of unforgettable moment that makes me love gaming so much.
 Honorable mention goes to "Evil Universe Force" from the same article.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


Beyond the game, what's involved in an ideal session?

Food and some time to socialize.  My Tuesday crew meets at 6 PM at a pre-determined eatery for food and talk.  My Sunday D&D takes a break mid-game for dinner (sometimes just delivered pizza, but more typically our DM cooks for us and we throw in a few bucks each for ingredients).

When I run games at home, I prefer to time things so we can eat before or after the game. For me, the social element of gaming is super-important, but I don't want the socializing to untrack the game.

I also love to do themed snacks: dim sum when I'm running Feng Shui, that sort of thing. When we had our Dads & Kids 4e game, I bought a case of D&D themed sodas we served at a "Tavern" after the regular game stuff. Good times. 

Monday, August 8, 2016

#RPGADAY Day Eight

Hardcover, softcover, digital? What is your preference?

I like 'em all, so it depends on the product. PDFs are terrific for my Gamer ADD. I have hundreds of game books on my iPad, so I never find myself late for work and staring at the shelf trying to guess what I'll be in the mood to look at come lunchtime (yes, this used to happen).

But PDFs aren't the end-all and be-all for me. I love the physical aspects of a book.I like being able to page through one at random. I like being able to loan a copy to a friend without feeling like we're breaking copyright law. Also I'm in inveterate bathtub reader, something I won't do with my tablet. So, there are plenty of RPGs I own in both PDF and physical form.

Hardback versus softback is less of an issue. I'm more about the contents than the packaging. As long as it doesn't fall apart, I'm good.

Sunday, August 7, 2016

#RPGADAY Day Seven

What aspect of RPGs has had the biggest effect on you?

The fact that I can't do it alone. I spent fourth through seventh grades at a high-dollar private school, on a faculty scholarship. I didn't fit in with those kids, who were from a different world of money and privilege. Like they say, the schools may require uniforms, but the kids still know rich from poor.

Nonetheless, after four years, I'd adjusted pretty well. And right about that time, my dad changed jobs, the scholarship went away, and I was suddenly back in public school for eighth grade.  Not the best year of my life, I can tell you that much.

The following year, I discovered my high school had a wargaming club. While we weren't playing RPGs yet, it was my first real exposure to a peer group that shared my interests (and economic status) in many years. As RPGs supplanted wargames, I found myself making friends, growing more confident, and much happier.

Throughout my life, my RPG hobby has been my one constant social outlet. Even my other hobbies (comics, SCA) grew out of interests I developed and people I met via gaming. Without it, I don't know who I'd be, but I suspect that person would be a good deal lonelier.

Saturday, August 6, 2016


Most Amazing Thing A Game Group Did For Their Community

Another weird one to my eyes. One of my groups? Something I heard about? I don't know quite where to go with this, so I'm just going to take a stab in the dark.

Chupacabracon in Austin has an annual tradition called "Saturday Night Savages." It features multiple Savage Worlds games GMed by some very notable SW writers, all happening at the same time.

One of Chupacabracon's other customs is the "Charity Re-Roll" bucket. Each table has a bucket that folks can drop money in to buy a re-roll for a dollar.  All proceeds go to a local charity that makes sure underprivileged kids get meals outside of school (a serious problem in the US, I'm sad to say). Great cause.

Because re-rolls aren't really a thing in SW, the GMs decided among themselves they would let players buy a Bennie for a dollar.  It's probably worth noting the SW community is a pretty tight-knit group, and the writers/GMs might have a bit of a friendly competitive streak.  This led to multiple game being more or less wrecked by an abundance of Bennies (seriously, I one-shotted the boss monster in the game I played, AND had enough oompf left over to veto the GM's attempt to nullify my result) by each table trying to outdo the other. Something like $600 was raised for the charity in the course of four hours, a record at the con. And everyone had a blast.

I know there are lots of bigger deals, but that's one I actually participated in.

#RPGADAY Special Catchup Edition

Yesterday was a really bad day, and by the time I got home, I forgot to do my entry for Day 5. So here we go:

What Story Does Your Group Tell About Your Character?

I don't think they do, honestly. My groups aren't big about stories. If we do, it tends to be little snippets of things like "Remember when Troubadour talked the Oyster into turning himself in?" or 'We owe it to Einar's memory." I can't really think of anything that merits a story.

Thursday, August 4, 2016


It's day one of GenCon, but I'm not at GenCon. I spent the morning in a mandatory training, and the afternoon driving around in 100f degree weather deploying printers to various sites. So, no time to write until now.

Today's topic is Most Impressive Thing Another's Character Did, and it's a real no-brainer for me.  In fact, it's a story I've shared before. Because my kid is awesome.

Hyperion was a re-hash of Hero-Man for an ICONS game I was running. I needed a brick, and I always liked the conceit of the hero who was secretly a robot. I even listed that as one of his Complications.  My son was playing in this game and it was his first convention session playing with adults, so I included him with my boy in mind, in that he was 1) powerful, 2) easy to play. Little did I guess how he’d grasp the subtleties of the rules as quickly as he did.

Here's the situation: the heroes were basically fighting a Cthulhu analog as he rose from the briny deep. They were beaten down, out of options, and (more importantly) out of Determination, the currency ICONS runs on. They were talking among themselves, trying to figure out what to do when the boy said, “Wait. I know how to beat him. I’m going to fly as fast as I can and slam into it with everything I’ve got. It can’t kill me…because I’M SECRETLY A ROBOT!”  This admission earned him a point of Determination, which he used to perform a stunt combining his ranks in Strength with his Flight speed. I ruled that he would suffer half the damage he caused, almost certainly tearing off his outer covering. He hit, the Elder Horror went down, and his secret was exposed.

He even got quoted in ICONS Assembled (right at the bottom of page 29). Thanks, Steve!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

#RPGADAY Day Three

Character moment you are proudest of

I don't have a lot of specific character moments that stick with me, to be honest. My characters are typically the stalwart support rather than the star of the show. In comics terms, the guy who's always in a team book but never has a solo title. It's something I'm good with.

There was the time my superhero Spectrum outwitted an entire star empire, bluffing them into believing he was an advance agent of an even bigger star empire. But that was a team effort.

There was the time when Troubadour, another one of my characters, decided to hang up the tights and hit the road with his lady-love, "To see America. The REAL America," which was fun because I got to retire him outright.

There was that time when Pseudolus, my 4e Bard used successfully taunted a fungus.

Val, my Sunite Paladin, had a number of remarkable moments slaying dragons and dispatching demons. He even had to stand in judgment of Lathander for that god's role in the Dawn Cataclysm. But all of those were with his boon companions and not his moment alone. Probably his best was rescuing his fiancee from the Cult of the Dragon and turning their home into the greatest Sunite sanctuary on the Sword Coast. Since I'm the sort of player who likes his characters to leave a real mark on the world, let's go with that one.

Notable, but not necessarily pride-inducing were the antics of Einar, an alcoholic dwarf berserker (Barbarian) in a Greyhawk-based Pathfinder game. He had a few memorable moments in his very short life.  For instance, in the first adventure, we found a wall in a dungeon that was obviously concealing something. As everyone else was trying to figure out what to do, Einar said (very politely, he was very polite when sober) "Excuse me, sirs. I has a pick. Am a dwarf."  When later in the same dungeon we found ourselves with a captive, Einar piped up, "Excuse me, sirs. I has shackles. Mean drunk."

In a later adventure, he charged two Ogres while raging. I forgot about their reach and an opportunity attack critted, dropping him out of rage, which nearly killed him. The party had to spend a ton of resources keeping him alive, while finishing off the ogres. Einar's recollection was that he saw the ogres, saw red, and when he came out of it, they were both dead, so he always took credit for it.

Einar met his end defending his friends from a party of lycanthropes armed with multiple magic weapons. He suffered multiple grievous wounds, which combined with dropping out of range to take him to immediate death. In accordance with his religious beliefs, he was not raised. He died as he lived, angry and on the floor of a tavern.

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

#RPGADAY 2016 Day Two

Today's topic is Best Game Session Since August 2015

I like the fact that these questions aren't just a rehash of the previous years'.  Unfortunately, the past twelve months haven't been great for me on the gaming front.

Last fall, I ran some ICONS, but after the third or fourth session, life got in the way with my son spending a week in the hospital and the rest of the group having issues. 
I stopped playing with my Tuesday night crew because I've burned out on Pathfinder. To their credit, my guys were very understanding about it and made it clear I'm welcome back when I want to come back.

The 4e D&D game has been on hiatus while the DM tries to sell his house and move. As it was, we were starting to feel the pain points of high-level 4e in a big way (we're 22nd level now).

So I've been limited to one-shots this year, mostly at conventions, apart from a playtest of FFG's Star Wars: Edge of the Empire, which was fun.  Looking at those, I played four RPGs (Feng Shui 2, Night's Black Agents, Boot Hill, and ICONS), and ran four RPGs (Mutants & Masterminds, Honor + Intrigue, Stormbringer, and Champions 4e).  Of those, I think I was happiest with the Stormbringer game I ran at NTRPGCon. The players were really on the same page with each other and me, the action moved crisply and things never really bogged down.  I'm super proud with the way I juggled everything in the Champions session (not to mention the thrill of getting to GM for Steve Perrin), but Stormbringer was really my standout session for the year.

Here's hoping the next twelve months make this a harder choice.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Time For The Annual Marathon

It's August, so time again for #RPGADAY.  Here's this year's topics:

Our first one is "Real dice, dice app, diceless, how do you prefer to roll?

Real dice for me thanks. I've used apps (and will again, I'm certain), but I prefer the tactile element of actual dice.  This is probably a holdover from all those years playing Champions, which I'll forever associate with throwing handfuls of dice.

I've played a few "diceless" games that used cards. I've never played an actual diceless game, unless you count LARPing, which I've only sort of done.

Anyway, that was an easy one.