Tuesday, January 27, 2015

I guess I'm running a Gary Con event after all.

I know I said that I wasn't planning on GMing this year at any of the cons I was visiting, but there is a game that I've been wanting to play for some time and a convention maybe the only place I can find interested players. This year, I'm running an introductory game of The Void, a mixture of dark, claustrophobic hard science fiction and Lovecraftian horror from Wildfire. (Gamers may recognize this as a campaign setting for Traveller, Chthonian Stars.) Here's the description I submitted:

It's almost a bad horror vid cliche: Warden command receives a garbled distress call from some rusted-out freighter sliding down the gravity well from the Kuiper Belt and your ship just happens to be "the closest ship in the sector." Now you've just awoken from A/D sleep after a high-G course correction to intercept the wayward freighter. Your mission: board the ship, find any survivors, and determine if it's just a mechanical problem... or something else. 
"The Void" is the role-playing game where hard science fiction action meets Lovecraftian horror from Wildfire games. This is an introductory game, so all comers are welcome. Pregenerated PCs will be provided. Six-sided dice are required.
I intend to run the game twice: Thursday at 2 PM, and Friday at 4 PM. If this works out, I'll also run it at Gamer Hole Con, and maaaaaybe the Nexus Game Fair if I can get off for that weekend—though I doubt it.

So put your mag-boots on, make sure the O2 tank on your EVA suit is charged up, and remember to save the last bullet for yourself.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Coming Soon: The Expanse

There hasn't been a good science fiction TV series since Captain Malcolm Reynolds and his band of merry malcontents flew off into the sun after 14 episodes, and before that, Babylon 5. The various regurgitations of the Trek Franchise got boring after a while, as did the 87 seasons of Stargate SG-1. I never liked any of the surreal "mind fuck" series like The X FilesLost, Heroes, or Fringe. Ronald Moore's rehash of Battlestar Galactica (Or as it call it "Lost... In Space!" Get it?) left me cold after the first season as it tried to be more symbolic and navel-gazing than entertaining. It's not that I don't think that sci-fi shouldn't deal with "BIG" issues, it's just that Hollywood ends up pandering to the lowest common denominator and ends up running back to ideas and conclusions that are safe and comfortable for your average American mass-entertainment-consuming dullard. (e.g. Prometheus. What should have been nihilistic horror gets mired in optimistic religious bullshit and spiritualistic bollocks. Then again, what do you expect from Damon Lindelof?)

That said, it looks like SyFy, in its recent effort to finally put add some actual science fiction to its repertoire of ghost hunting shows ("WHAT WAS THAT! WHAT WAS THAT!") and professional wrestling, are producing The Expanse, a 10-episode micro-series based on James S.A. Corey's series of novels. If you haven't read the series, do so starting with Leviathan Wakes! It's one part Firefly (i.e. ragtag spaceship crew of misfits), one part Game of Thrones (i.e. political machinations and conspiracy), with soupcon of The Walking Dead and a pinch of H.P. Lovecraft (i.e. body horror and ancient alien "Things-That-Man-Was-Not-Meant-To-Know").

 Finally! A return to the TV space opera in all it's glory! Pew pew pew pew...

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

My 2015 Convention Schedule

A new year has come, and with it, a new year of conventions here. Since I worked all three of the winter holidays (not that I had much choice, mind you), I'm getting a couple of extra vacation days, so I plan to make the most of them! This year, I'm attending...

Gary Con (March 26-29): This has become the con I live for now. It's so close to home that I don't need to rent a hotel room and it's a far more intimate and friendly affair than the larger, more-visible conventions. This year it almost looked like I wasn't going to make it at all. My employer is rather strict and stingy when it comes to approving vacation requests and someone had already requested off for that Thursday and Sunday! However, thanks to a sympathetic co-work willing to trade workdays, I'll be able to make Thursday's festivities. I'm still trying to see if I can get Sunday off, but I won't get my hopes up.

This year, I'm just going to play. I have no time to put together a scenario to GM and I want to flesh out Mu a little more before I try to run it again. After playing in Tim Kask's OD&D games, I'm going to shoot for getting into one of Frank Mentzer's games.

Gamehole Con (November 6-8): Another "local" convention, I've heard enough good things to persuade me to attend for the first time. It has a larger scope than Gary Con, catering to a larger selection of games than just classic role-playing. That suits me fine, of course.

I've got the vacation time cleared with my corporate slave drivers, now all I need to do is scrimp and save for a cheap room. Madison is little further from my place than Lake Geneva, but its still a tolerable distance for a poor gamer like myself. Also the lateness in the year, gives me most of the year to work on some ideas and think up something to run.

See you all there!

The Year of Tekumel: Creating the Impenetrable Screen of Lore for Mastery of Games

The Year of Tekumel is upon us all! Otulengba! 

Recently, my coil-bound copy of Empire of the Petal Throne, which has seen me through many an adventure in the Jakallan underworld and on the Sabke Road, was getting pretty worn out. As I printed out a new copy, I figured that I should be environmentally conscious as possible and try to recycle as much as my old book as I could before consigning the rest to the paper shredder. Therefore, I decided to convert what I could into a much-needed GM screen!

Victor Raymond has used a similar method to create his own EPT GM screen using laminated pages of the tables found in the back of the book, However, since I already own a vinyl, three-panel, landscape screen for Savage Worlds, I decided to try to cut out and re-position these tables onto card stock so they could better fit my screen. I also added vital combat tables (e.g. To-Hit, Hit Dice, Damage, Morale, etc.) so I would no longer have to go flipping around the book to find them. So far, I'm pleased with the results:

No matter how much clever arranging I tried, I couldn't fit them all onto three panels. Fortunately, Hammerdog Games makes a four-panel landscape screen that I've been meaning to pick up the next time I make a POD order from DTRPG.  I also used some the artwork to create panels for the front of the screen. I made several for variety sake:

No the only thing that remains is to laminate the front of the panels (this keeps them from sticking to the clear vinyl of the screen pockets) and I'm ready to torment any new barbarian adventurers that wash up on the shores of Tsolyanu!

Monday, January 12, 2015

(SW) Fearsome Critters: Cake Walk

Savage Worlds is the role-playing game that bills itself on being "Fast, Furious, and Fun." Over the years I've played elvish warriors, pulp adventurers, steampunk cowboys, cyborg assassins, and other action packed player characters. So when I was offered a chance to review Fearsome Critters: Cake Walk, a new one-shot, introductory adventure for Savage Worlds written by John Beattie, with art by T. Jordan Peacock,  and published by Fabled Environments, I wondered what sort of heroic (or anti-heroic) archetypes players would be asked to try one. Then I read the adventure and found out:

Animal Control Officers.

Yes, you read that correctly.

I know what you're about to say next; "Animal control? You mean shooing raccoons out of chimneys and chasing after stray cats? No magic swords, tommy guns, or "vazed-plazma-rivles-in-ze-vorty-vatt-range?"  Outside of the rare rabid rottweiler, what sort of adventurous life is that?"

Well, it depends on what sort of animal you're trying to control. Without giving too much away, in Fearsome Critters: Cake Wake you play members of a special division of animal control that deals with "unusual" fauna and a call from an abandoned snack cake factory leads the players into the very different pest than they bargained for. While reading this humorous adventure (no spoilers here) I realized that Cake Walk reminded me of West End Games' classic Ghostbusters RPG, a game I have many fond memories playing back in middle school when I was a budding gamer.

As an introductory adventure, it's a great way to acclimatize a group of new players to the Savage Worlds engine. It contains just about everything you'll need including five pre-generated PCs and a blank, campaign-specific record sheet for original PCs; a detailed map of the where the action takes place; player handouts; and since Savage Worlds is a miniature-centric game, full color figures including shipping containers and a pair of trucks. This scenario is designed to be a one-shot, just the thing for new players or a quick game to run either at a convention or as a delightful, palette-cleansing, diversion from the usual gaming routine. However, it also includes a few one-page adventure seeds for those who want to draw this out into a larger campaign.Those familiar with Fabled Environments line of gaming maps will recognize the hard work and quality the publisher put into this product.

Obviously, Cake Walk is meant to be a far-less serious adventure than what most gamers expect. In my experience, deliberately humorous games can be rather difficult to pull off well. It often takes a GM with no small amount of comedic skill themselves as well as the ability to think fast if PCs take the adventure outside the author's intended path.  Unless you're gifted at improv, it's very hard to deliver a good punchline when the audience is re-writing your material as you go. It's also works best when PCs also have a great sense of humor and are capable of playing for laughs. That makes GM's job is much easier. Of course, how much humor you choose to inject into Cake Walk is the GMs call.

Cake Walk also tries to get PCs to try to solve their problems with role-playing rather than resorting to gunplay and melee. Your character's most dangerous weapon is a can of pepper spray. How the situation turns out will depend greatly upon how well they can puzzle out the mystery of the Golden Creme Delights Factory and how they react to what they find within. For some, it can be quite refreshing from the usual hacking, slashing, and blasting that are used to resolve most RPG adventures.

Therefore, if you're looking for a light-hearted change of pace or want to give neophyte Savages something easy to play for their first few games, Cake Walk is an excellent and fun-filled choice.