Friday, March 29, 2013

Joining Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day

Mark your calendars! Erick Tenker and Christopher Helton have dubbed April 17, 2013 “Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day” and I've decided to get this blog in on the fun. I work that day, but I'll see if I can get off or trade a day to see if I can get off that day so my rotten job does't get in the way of participating. 

The next question is, what should I post about. I've been working on a few thoughts about a new Lovecraftian campaign setting I've been musing over of late. I've also been thinking of running S&W over Google Hangout and using Roll20 as a virtual tabletop. Perhaps an after-action report on that.

I've got a few weeks, and a copy of the new "Complete Rules" from Frog God Games, to plan something out.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Copyediting Rule No. 1: Get Someone Else To Proofread!

Believe it or not, I actually have a degree in Journalism, so it's infuriating for me to re-read an article I just posted and find typos, spelling, and grammar errors that even a second-grader wouldn't make. I don't know if it's undiagnosed ADHD (as if I don't have enough mental health issues to begin with) or just basic laziness, but I tend to forget to proofread my articles, then have to go back through the whole thing and repost again and again to weed out the errors--and even then it's not enough. In the end, it makes me look like a... like a... Well...

Therefore, I apologize to my readers for the lousy quality of my work. You deserve better than me, but what can I say? MY BRAIN HURTS!!!

Monday, March 18, 2013

Gary Con V: The Rest Of The Con

Things got REALLY hectic on Saturday, so blogging was out of the question. I'll try now to sum up the rest of the con here.


My first, and only official game was a return to the game that got me into this crazy, mixed-up hobby: Star Frontiers! Due to some issues with the hotel's business suite (their computer didn't have Acrobat Reader at the time) the GM had some issues getting the game up and running, but he pulled through, thanks to the resourcefulness of some of the players. We were playing a party of UPF representatives sent on a diplomatic mission to participate in something the newly discovered aliens refer to as "The Game."  When we arrived we were visited by two shuttle pods that deposited several fighting robots. Hilarity ensued.
After the game I got to work finishing up my pick-up Savage Worlds/Realms of Cthulhu. I had made up announcement flyers and posted to the Gary Con forums and Facebook wall. I chose a pre-written adventure that I had on my account and quickly reinterpreted the Chaosium stats into Savage Worlds. After the business center got it's computer problems sorted out, I printed up maps and record sheets. I went the open gaming area in the restaurant and found the perfect spot: a shadowy corner booth. I laid out everything I would need and waited until 10 pm to roll around...

The perfect gaming spread. (Note what I've got playing on my iPad.)

...only one person showed up. We waited a little while longer but no one else came. I showed the fellow who to create a Savage World's PC and gave him a quick rundown of the mechanics. It turns out that Joe, for that was his name, was also a fan of the Ganesha Games series of skirmish wargames including Song of Blades Of Heroes, a very old school style fantasy game.


Here it was, Saturday! The day I've been waiting for all year. It was time to leave this reality and travel to the pocket universe that imprisons the world known as Tékumel!

The first game dealt with some of the more esoteric aspects of the Tékumel setting. Our group played a group of adventurers in the serve is an immortal wizard who dwells in the Jakállan underworld. Our mission was to retrieve a series of valuable items from various locations. I played a Livyáni sorcerer priestess who was trained in creating nexus points (I was the rest of the parties ride.). We first visited a spaceship outside of Tékumel's reality commanded by the dreaded Shunned Ones. After we acquired the mysterious black stones were cent to retrieved I open a nexus point to the city of scholars controlled by what I assume was an ancient super computer. We acquired a vial of the strange liquid our master demanded we returned with when... we ran out of time.

After that, we-myself, Victor Raymond, and several of his friends-went into Lake Geneva for a quick dinner. We tried the Sprecher's restaurant, but there was an hour wait. So we ate at the greasy spoon a block away where we discussed the problems with 3rd and 4th Editions.

Afterwards, we set up for the second EPT game of the night. We rolled up characters, and in an rare move, Victor allowed us to create a mixed alignment party. I created a not-so-skilled priest of Lord Chegárra. We descended into the Jakállan underworld to find fortune and glory. Our party ran into a wounded priest of Lord Belkhánu who claimed that he had run into a underworld beasts. Knowing a thing about the setting, I had my immediate suspicions about what the priest really was, but I was not going to spoil things by metagaming. After a run in with a party of serpentine Qól and the rat-like Kúrga (I nearly died once during that battle, but we had a Eye of Ineluctable Eye of Healing that saved my bacon.) we came upon a richly appointed temple dedicated to Lord Chiténg.

While we attempted to make off with the valuables. We were come upon by a pair of the dreaded Ssú. After an epic battle, we killed one of the foul aliens and made drove off the other. Victor rolled up the random treasure for the Ssú we slew and JACKPOT! He had five Eyes on him! That was more princely find that could set us up for some time. After the battle, we were asked to take a break while the GM talked to the PC who was protecting the "priest." When we got back, that player was gone and the priest's claim that our colleague left objecting to desecration of a temple.

Our efforts at looting the temple where fruitless. The player try to chip the deeply-set flame emeralds from a statute of Lord Chiténg had failed his Strength rolls. However, we decided that the Eyes were a good enough haul, so we tried to make our way out. That is, until a priest of that temple came upon us who, before he died by the hands of our tank, cast a spell that created a carpet of lava that slowly rolled it's way toward us and forced us into a dead end hall way. The character holding the Eyes, tried each one, hoping that one of them could cease the deadly magma flow creeping at us. One gave off a red flash, and the "priest" offered to show the user how to properly use it. The PC gave the Eye to him...
In a matter of a few combat rounds, he and 3 other players were frozen by the Excellent Ruby Eye, my PC had fallen in the lava. Only one player, a female friend of Victor's who was playing a Lord Hrü’ü-worshipping adventurer with assassin training, was left. Thinking quickly she tossed a flask of oil at the priest who caught in fire from the heat of the lava flow. As the priest was immolated, my suspicions were confirmed: he was really a Marashyalu Tsú uru, a shape-shifting creature that takes a pathetic form to work their way into a party so it can feed upon them when they are wounded or dying. The missing party member had tried to kill the priest while we were engaged with the Ssú.

Our lone surviving adventuress had quickly figured out how the Excellent Ruby Eye worked and unfroze the character with the eyes. While his back was turned to help with the others, she slit his throat and retrieved the Eyes, and was able to escape back to the surface with a small fortune in ancient techno-magical weapons.


My final game started at 10 am, so I got up bright and early to pack up and load up the card. After I got everything squared away, I sat down for a nice game of Traveller where the GM recognized my real name from several Traveller-forums. We were playing a party of complete strangers riding on a lunar crawler with many civilians on the moon of heavily balkanized planet. I played a grouchy female Aslan belter with a shotgun. Along the way to our spaceport destination we were set upon by troops for one of the systems' governments who planted a nuke on the vehicle and left a single man on to drive in into another power's colony. Yes, I got to use my character's shotgun.

After the game was over, I made sure that I had everything. I got into my car. I got home by 1:30 pm, unpacked my car, made myself a sandwich, and took a well-deserved nap.

And that's it! All in all, despite the noise issues and an unexpected bout of depression that hit me after the last EPT game, it was yet another awesome Gary Con. Of course, I made a trip through the dealer's room and I came out with quite a haul.

Treasures from beyond the spheres!
I picked up Castles & Crusades Castle Keepers Guide, now I've got all three of the "main" books in my collection. Noble Knight had a discounted copy of Realms of Cthulhu that I could not pass up, and is what inspired me to attempt my failed Savage Worlds game the Friday night. I also picked up Barrowmaze, a megadungeon designed for Labyrinth Lord and B/X. If I can ever get my schedule straightened out, I will definitely want to run this for my OSR group. Also, I found a vendor selling Lamentations of the Flame Princess products so I successfully nabbed a copy of  Zak S's Vornheim before they were out of print.  I was also able to snag used copies of Realms of Crawling Chaos and Jim Raggi's The Esoteric Random Creature Generator. 

In closing there are a few things I'd like to note for next year's Gary Con:
  • Get a dedicated digital camera: My iPhone camera is problematic. I need something that's universally compatible. 
  • Bring my own booze and a flask: I'm not much of a drinker. I only had about five drinks the entire weekend which is all the alcohol I've had in about 6 months. Still, it's nice to cut loose.  However, as great as the bar service is, 5 bucks for a rum and Coke is a bit much.
  • Don't forget sandwich bags, garbage bags, and plastic ware: These were hard to come by and I wasn't able to make my peanut butter and apricot preserves sandwiches without them.
  • Don't trust the hotel microwave: I tried to cook one of those instant mac-and-cheese cups to go with my tuna-on-wheat. After the prescribed 3 1/2 minutes, the water was barely warm and the macaroni was still hard. I hate see what it would do with popcorn.
  • Run my Cthulhu/Savage World game next year!

Friday, March 15, 2013

Gary Con V: The First Day

It was the dawn of a new age of classic role-playing, 20 years after the TSR-Wizards of the Coast War. The Gary Con Project was a dream given form. Its goal: to prevent the end of old school role playing by giving gamers a place to play their favorite games peacefully . It's a port of call--home away from home for wizards, dungeoneers, investigators  and travellers. Gamers of all genres wrapped in a posh resort-convention center, all alone on Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. It can be a dangerous place.. for your favorite player character... but it's our last, best hope for decent gaming.

This the story of the first day of this year's Gary Con convention.  The year is 2013. The name of the place is Gary Con 5.

(Yes, I've been waiting all year to post that.)

Being an old hat at conventions, the first day's routine is pretty standard: get up groggy-and-early; quickly shower, shave, and get dressed; then hustle down to the convention floor for your first game stopping along the way for an overpriced coffee and doughnut. (No, I didn't take the one's topped with bacon.) My first game was Curse of the Weaver Queen run by its author and TSR alumni, Tim Kask.  We we're using original White Box rules, so play was very pretty free-form. Players were given medium level pregens--I, an open atheist, ended playing a human cleric armed with a magical shillelagh--and we wandered about an arachnid-themed dungeon trying to discover the fate of several lost souls from a nearby village.

I won't spoil the module with details it, but for our group it ended in a TPK. Tim is a shrewd DM.

After that I took some time up at the bar to down another hard cider and wolf down a decent Ruben sandwich with fries, when I decided that I was going to run a Savage Worlds/Realms of Cthulhu pick-up for Friday night. I sorted through the various .PDFs on my iPad and found something that could be suitably modified from the original Chaosium rules to the new ones. I tinkered around with the character stats until it was time to go down for my next game.

Next Up: West End's Ghostbusters, another game from my youth. This time around we were actually playing the characters from the movie, and I picked Egon. To play Dr. Spengler convincingly, you have to have to keep up an almost dead-pan tone of voice and use as many ten-dollar, sciencey-sounding words as possible. We're set lose in a New York museum trying to find out why their prized T-Rex fossil is tearing up the place. The highlight of the adventure was when the team was succumbing to the depressing influence of a mesoamerican  god of suffering when the unaffected Egon came upon the idea of trying to cheer up his comrades before they killed themselves. My solution: imagine Harold Ramis trying to sing "Rainbow Connection."

After that, I tracked down Victor Raymond and some of his friends, many of whom I played Empire of the Petal Throne with last year, for a discussion of the of the various themes of race, gender, and culture that arise within gaming. Pretty heady stuff, especially when you're nursing another cider. Along the way, my room mate, Anthony Roberson, arrived took up residence in our room. I said my hellos then rejoined Victor and his colleagues in his room to continue our discussion over Coke-and-bourbon. Buzzed--but not "drunk"--I returned to my room to catch some rack time before the next's days shenanigans.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Gary Con: The Pre-Game Show.

Rather than waste my time and yours with long, rambling accounts of my trip and the night before the con, I'll give you a few brief observations:

Weather-wise, this year is a stark contrast to last. It was unseasonably warm and sunny the day before last year's festivities. This time around, while it was still clear, it's cold with temperatures expected to dip into the teens. I've revved up my room's heater to make sure everything was nice and toasty for my first night here.

After unpacking, I ended up at the lounge for a tall rum-and-coke and a rest. Some enterprising barkeep brought the Firefly DVD set to play on the most of the flat screen TV (they had one set on ESPN for the mundanes). Soon more and more people started to drift in, including the legends of the hobby, I was sitting no more than 10 feet from Margaret Weis and Jim Ward. After a quick bowl of the pipe weed out on the newly-landscaped patio with the rest of the tobacco fiends, I returned to the lounge for FREE FOOD!

When I had my file of pizza, chicken wings, and nachos (Oh! By the way, Angry Orchard hard cider rocks), I returned buzzed, relaxed and happy to my comfortably heated room to watch Rifftrax on the room's TV. Now, it is morning and I'm finished my coffee and doughnut and I'm waiting for my first game run by Tim Kask.

More news to come as it develops.

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Hulks & Horrors is Out!

Remember the ill-fated Hulks & Horrors Crowd Sourcing campaign from last year? Well, Bedroom Wall Press has just released a "Basic Black" edition on DriveThruRPG and is offering the .PDF rules free for the first week with the option for a PoD hard copy for $10.

Check it out, or else you'll make the hovering squid VERY angry.

Friday, March 8, 2013

Gary Con V: T-Minus One Week

One week from now I’ll be in beautiful Lake Geneva, WI for Gary Con, an annual glorious weekend of old gaming fun. This year I plan on being much more diligent in my day-to-day, on-the-scene blogging. Unlike last year, I’m going to have my laptop at the ready so I don’t have to try to blog using an iOS device.

My schedule of events is as follows:


10 AM: Curse of the Weaver (OD&D)
Buried beneath the sands for generations, an ancient curse has re-awakened in the desert. Livestock and pets, babies and the infirm are missing. You are called upon to set forth and explore these depredations. Then a local seems to remember:" ...there is some sort of ungodly curse..." and a buried temple beneath the sand.
Run by Tim Kask. I’m going to have fun playing a game run by a TSR alumni.

6 PM: DGS Presents: Ghostbusters - Timmy the T-Rex
The Ghostbusters are back! After successfully busting the ghosts at Gen Con, they've returned to their beloved NYC for some routine hauntings. Things will be far from routine, however, when they boys in grey are called in to investigate a disturbance at the American Museum of Natural History. Just how does one bust a 40' long t-rex skeleton?
Run by Hans Cummings


Noon: Midday Star Frontiers - Another Crazy Job
So you've taken crazy jobs before... but you figure it takes a special kind of crazy to take this job. A new race has been discovered, and they've invited a team of UFP representatives to play in something they call, "The Game." You don't know if it's something like checkers, or a violent game that makes neutron-ball look like a pillow fight. But they're paying well. You just hope you and your teammates are up to the challenge.... Pre-generated characters provided.
Run by Ken Haylock. I'm looking forward to playing a session of the RPG that got me into the hobby.


Saturday is going to be my day on glorious Tékumel with two games run by Victor Raymond.

2 PM: The Periplus of the Planes (Empire of the Petal Throne)
Nyélmu the Undying Wizard has set you upon a quest across the myriad planes to retrieve for him certain items necessary to his pleasures in the Garden of the Weeping Snows. Unfortunately, other forces are at work to stop you - Shunned Ones and Hokún possibly the least among them!
8 PM: The Jakállan Underworld
If you have never ventured across the River of Silence, or heard the sweet, high chiming of Ssú as they search for their victims, or faced the ghastly sight of ranks of undead defending a darkened shrine, this is your opportunity. Come venture beneath Jakálla, The City Half As Old As The World, the jewel of the Tsolyáni Imperium, the ancient capital of the Bednálljan Kings. Experience the World of Tékumel, created by Prof. M.A.R. Barker. Using classic Empire of the Petal Throne rules with pregenerated characters. (repeated session)


10 AM: A Rock And A Hard Place (Mongoose Traveller)
Your downport liberty on a moon of the balkanized planet Alcost in the Far Frontiers sector has been going well enough, if you don't let the war scare news in the background bother you. But when the trouble does strike, it strikes close to you. Can you get yourselves and the children trapped with you to safety?
Run by John Appel.

When I’m not at these events, blogging, or taking a pipe out of by the fire pit (assuming they’ve brought the fire pit back this year), I’m be available to chat or pick-up games or whatever. Just look for this fat asshole:
A face only Shub Niggurath could love.
See you all there.