Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Baron Who Would be King

A land in the midst of a dark age. A generation ago, maybe more, the Horde descended upon the people of the seven nations. The brought death and destruction. The king and his dukes met the khan and khanate upon the fields of plenty where our lord and master was slaughtered. For thirteen long years, the Horde ravaged the land.

No one can point to a single specific reason for the Horde's departure. Some of the barons claim it was their battle prowess versus a foe more numerous. Elders in villages across the land claim a curse placed upon the Horde by druids led to the foreigners' demise. In the end, all that mattered was that the Horde was gone and a decimated people could try and rebuild.

Rebuild homes, rebuild keeps and castles, rebuild roads and bridges, rebuild farms and families. With the Horde gone, the old enemies returned. Creatures of the night, disputes over land and women, and the Old Gods looking for sacrifices. 

It is into this world our heroes step. Into a barony with a need for strong leaders. A barony with a baron who desires so much more for his people, his land, and himself.

A baron who would be king.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

7RPGs as a Player

I started as a player, so here are #7rpgsplayed
  1. D&D 2nd edition
  2. Vampire the Masquerade
  3. Star Wars
  4. World of Darkness mashups
  5. Traveller
  6. Lowell's fantasy hack
  7. Freeport

For those that have never gamed with me, I will start by stating that I prefer to run games, not play in them. I cannot speak to as why. Perhaps, it is due to playing in bad games. Perhaps, it is due to playing in games with bad players. There are games not in this list that I have played and enjoyed moments therein, but they did not provide me with the level of experience that I gained with those within this list.

I discussed my experience with D&D 2nd edition
here. Playing in a game set in the Empire of the Petal Throne was my first real foray into a campaign. It was a very good experience. I was playing with seasoned veterans and a good GM. I was unfamiliar with the setting, but had read my share of fantasy novels and as many D&D books that I could get my hands on. This game connected many of the dots I did not grasp or did not know existed in the D&D rules. I would later play in other D&D games I did not enjoy with players and GMs I did not enjoy. I played in an 1st edition Oriental Adventures game while living in Memphis that I enjoyed. I also ran a 3rd edition game years later that was fun. I even played in a few 3rd edition games with a group of friends, all older than I, that was enjoyable. Still, there was something about D&D and my experiences between EotPT and my 3rd edition game that turned me off of fantasy and D&D, in general.

The next campaign I remember experiencing was Chicago: by Night for Vampire: the Masquerade. From rolling d20s to the concept of dice pools was a change that I enjoyed. We played in a friend's basement, we started after nightfall, and made it a rule to end before sunrise – we were gother than thou. This was in the early 1990s and we were all in college. We compared all vampire movies to the game, we eschewed non-vampire horror films, and White Wolf had yet to expand its game line out to Werewolf, let alone Mage, Wraith, and Changeling. It was a good time to be alive and we spent Friday nights participating in skullduggery and Clan warfare.

When we were not playing White Wolf products, we were busy playing West End Games' Star Wars. Sometimes, there were plots, sometimes, there were not. Many of the games I first ran were pickup games that were barely more than cause mayhem, shoot it out with storm troopers, get to the ship, fight tie fighters in space, blast into hyperspace, and then do it all over again on the next planet. After I moved to Memphis, I played in a game that was built around many of the characters and situations from the old Marvel Comics Star Wars comicbook series. At one time, I had owned the first 90 or so of those comics. I loved the series and where it went. I gave it away to a friend, but have since gone back and picked up a few of the collected graphic novels. This game taught me that there could be much more to a Star Wars game than simply run and gun. I would further experience that through conversations with a friend that I made after moving back north. He ran a Star Wars campaign that culminated with the players running the Battle for Endor, following the movie's characters had been caught and executed on Hoth.

I have played and run several World of Darkness mashups. I ran one for several years we referred to as the “Creature Feature.” The game was set in the area in which we lived and the players portrayed fictionalized roles of themselves. I would later discover that many other groups had run through similar campaigns. Other WoD mashups would be run and played. I played in several of MrFenris' and one of Lowell's. For the most part, we all had fun with them. They allowed us to create our own settings or play in others' settings. Something like the Matrix wasn't far off from several of our games – especially those that involved sci-fi elements. Lowell's game would even involve elements from Highlander.

Traveller: The New Era was a game I purchased while I still lived up north, but would not get a chance to experience until I moved to Memphis. It would be a year or two until I discovered the history of the game with the Little Black Books and the controversy of the virus. One of the first games I played in Memphis was a Travellergame. The GM gave everyone a secret that no one else knew, but would be drawn into the game. The game was gritty, nasty, and used completely unfamiliar rules. Psychics mimicked those in movies and books, at the time. The entire game was unfamiliar territory and it allowed me to try new things as a player, to go in directions that I had yet to experience, and I think much of that was due to the make up for the group. These players were much more experienced than I and brought a great range of diversity to the table.

After moving back to the north, I would play in a fantasy hack that Lowell put together. For rules, it combined elements of GURPs, Rolemaster, and Unknown Armies. There were seven or eight players and this was a high fantasy game – something I was not overly familiar in playing. This campaign lasted seven years and would earn the moniker of “The Freakish Band of Adventurers.” Elves, half-elves, a former demoness, assassins, cat people, dog people, and a lone human made up this group. The campaign moved from location to location as the players tried to put together what happened during a lapse of amnesia, the recovery of land that fell from the sky, a murder of elves, a battle on the moon with Ratkin, and a return of ancient evils. The rules felt wonky at first, but I think over the course of the first year, we figured them out, and did not have any problems with them over the course of the next two years. Lowell's notes on the game several posts in his blog.

Lowell puts together good mashups. I did not realize this at the time. At that time, percentile systems and high fantasy were not something I was comfortable with – I liked the idea of the former, but didn't realize quite why I did not care for the latter. Lowell has gone on to mash up several different games, both for settings and for rules. Everything from L5R to WoD to Changeling:  the Lost to Fate and Fudge to making up his own rules using cards. I do not have images from the old Freakish Band of Adventurers game, so I'm using an image from his profile from this entry.

Steve over at Kaijuville put together a group to take on Green Ronin's Freeport using the True20 rules. All of the players had played various forms of D&D and wanted something better than that. We agreed the True20 rules set would give us the freedom to play pirates appropriate to the setting, while still allowing the GM the freedom to pull from as many sources as he wanted. Steve did a great job of keeping the group together. The players in this group were as divergent as the characters from The Freakish Band of Adventurers. We would lose two players over time, but the core stayed in the game until the monstrous end. Steve's notes on his game can be found on his blog. Steve combined Pirates of the Caribbean and the Cthulhu Mythos to make this a bang up game. I do not know how much of the material we experienced was his own work and how much he pulled from Freeport, but I also do not care. I had fun and found that I could enjoy a game that used a d20 and was fantasy. It was not high fantasy, but it was fantasy and Steve did include some standard fantasy tropes.

I have not played in a game since Freeport and if I can find one that really interests me, I may play one next year...


The #7rpg meme is making the rounds. I am a week behind in participating, due to a well placed honeymoon in the month of December. To make up for the fact that I am behind, I thought I would do three memes related to the #7rpg meme. The first meme I will discuss will cover rpgs that influenced me in important ways. The second will cover games I have run and the third will cover games I have played. You will see some cross-over between the three.

My first encounter with rpgs was the D&D red box. I played it three times. In all three experiences, there was the GM and myself, that's it. Two of the three games were run by the same friend. While these experiences spurred my muse, I would not say they played an important role in my development in the world of rpgs. The rpgs that that have impacted me the most are:
  1. Worlds of Wonder
  2. D&D 2nd edition
  3. Vampire the Masquerade
  4. Traveller: The New Era
  5. Kult
  6. Conpiracy X
  7. a/state  

The first rpg to make that impact was a boxed set from Chaosium Games called Worlds of Wonder. My father brought it home and introduced it to me and my brother as a tactical game. My brother and I did not understand the game very well. It did not last very long as a “play thing.” However, I would spend hours pouring over the three settings and core book in the boxed set. I was confused by the fact the core book had artwork that best fit Magic World. I had no clue that D&D and Worlds of Wonder were from the same world of games.

The first game campaign I played in was based in M.A.R. Barker's Empire of the Petal Throne, published by Judges Guild, using D&D 2nd edition rules. The game was run by a local teacher, from a school I did not attend, and held at a friend's house. I was the youngest player at age eighteen and a senior in high school. While I had read many different editions of D&D between Worlds of Wonder and Empire of the Petal Throne, there were many things I had not put it all together in my mind. I may have even read other rpg materials and not realized they were not for D&D. This game put it all together for me. The group was very much a classic D&D rpg group, in my mind. Everyone played their roles and played them well. I learned the nuances of how to play and how to calculate THAC0.

I would leave that game for Vampire the Masquerade, 1st edition. Another friend was running it and the crew were all my age. This group would be another classic example of stereotypes. We would not begin playing until after dark (mostly due to everyone's jobs) and would play all night, finishing before daylight. Players and even the Storyteller had to be awoken at times, falling asleep during the game due to being overly tired. Characters did not trust each other and we all plotted with and against each other. This campaign would last a year or so. The World of Darkness would become my go to setting and rules system for many years. The Vampire group would dabble in other games throughout the years, but nearly all of them were published by White Wolf.

I spent a year in college and then moved to Memphis. I was introduced to a gaming group by my roommate, who did not play at that time. The first game I came to love within that group was Traveller. They were playing The New Era edition. I had purchased that book before moving to Memphis and was excited to have a chance to play it. I knew that this edition was not the first, but I had no experience with those. After discovering the Little Black Books, I feel in love with the history of this game. This group played three times a week and often played two games a night. GURPS, Marvel Superheroes, DC Heroes, D&D Oriental Adventures, and Vampire the Masquerade were all games this group would play. I would even run VtM for a few of them before moving back to South Bend.

Kult came out and no one in my group noticed it, including myself. I discovered it through the old White Wolf house magazine in a series of articles called, “The Jail of Night” by Paul Beakley. The articles combined Kult with the World of Darkness. It intrigued me enough to pick up a copy of Kult. After reading the book, I understood why someone wrote the articles. The game just did not appear to be playable. Kult introduced interesting concepts that I had not considered before. It pushed the limits of gaming in ways I had never experienced. I spent hours and days combing the Internet for ideas on how to incorporate the material into other games or even how to run the game as written. Those things I read on the Internet would go on to be used in my special Halloween games. I pride myself on the fact that I nearly made three players quit those one shots due to the mental imagery I encouraged them to imagine. At that point in time of my life, Kult was about finding a way to get to the player through the character. What would cause the player to mentally react and be pushed towards, nay past, their person limits? I could not relate to Call of Cthulhu at that time and I desperately wanted a horror rpg. This was it for me. I have used the background of Kult in many games over the years and I still go back to it. Even in the current game I'm running.

The next game to make a large impact in my life is the original edition of Conspiracy X published by New Millenium Entertainment. My roommate of the time and I drove up to Kalamazoo to hit up a few stores we were told to visit by friends. I poured through this book on the way home. Conspiracy X filled the gap in my rpg world that wanted something like Scanners and other movies or comics I was into at the time. I think I was even watching The X-Files by then. I skipped out of the first two seasons, as it conflicted with gaming. Priorities and all of that. At the end of the book, or maybe it was one of the supplements like The Bodyguard of Lies, there as an ad for people who might want to help the company with things. I jumped at the opportunity! Alex Jurkat responded back asking me how I thought I could contribute. I inquired about play testing new material for the game. As it turned it, there was nothing ready at the time. However, the (new) company had another game they needed help with - All Flesh Must Be Eaten.

Eden Studios had already published the core book and the Zombie Master's Screen. They had a Western source book almost ready for testing. I jumped into the Yahoo Groups, picked up the AFMBE core book, and prepped my group for what was to come. Western zombies, kung fu zombies, fantasy zombies, sci-fi zombies, the group suffered through them all. Fistful O'Zombies would my first writing credit in the rpg world. I had no idea who this Shane Hensley guy was, but over email he seemed pretty cool. (He's even cooler in person.) While we were play testing Fistful, Alex reached out and asked if I could attend the Origins Game Fair to run demo games. I said, “Yes!” without thinking about it. I had already booked a hotel room and bought a badge, but had no idea what I was doing. I had planned to run two games of Conspiracy X. As it turned it, one of the other GMs could not make it and Alex asked if I could pick up those games, too. I agreed to pick them up. I really had no idea what I was doing, but running six sessions of Conspiracy X didn't seem like much. In the end, I ran two sessions. Most of the other sessions did not have players, let alone more than one or two players.

This was the beginning of my foray into the rpg world. I would meet many wonderful people though Eden Studios. Not just Alex Jurkat and George Vasilakos, but also CJ Carella, Derek Guder, the aforementioned Shane Hensley, Ash Marler, Matt McElroy, Monica Valetinelli, Angus Abranson, and more. These would lead to meeting others, such as Dominic McDowell, Andrew Peregrine, Malcolm Craig, Jason & Julie Vey, and more (and more and more and more). I have met a number of great people in this industry, whether they work in it, volunteer in it, or are just fans. Many have become fast and close friends.

My next accomplishment within the rpg world would be the forming of Eden Studios' demo teams. Our primary goals were to run games at Origins and Gen Con. Derek Guder was my right hand man and boy could we put together rockin' events. Players would go back to the booth clamoring for product. This lead to my joining Eden Studios at cons to actually help run the booth and only coordinate the GMs, not run games. My teams accomplished a great many things. Derek Guder and I introduced adult concepts and crossing over game lines to players who were blown away by the stories we wove. The teams introduced women to gaming, women who were only interested due to the Buffy the Vampire Slayer license, and made them feel comfortable at the table (several demo games were filled with only female players). I worked with a local comic book writer and game designer, Lowell Francis, to create a highly enjoyable demo game for the never published City of Heroes rpg. I then coordinated more than twenty GMs to run the game at GenCon, including se7enteen events that all started within two hours of each other. Several of those four hour demo sessions had more than the advertised six players playing in the games. 17 x 6 = 103 people in the room for this one game!

The work with Eden Studios also opened the door to help with the Glorantha project. Before Hero Wars was published, many volunteers took old scans of Greg Stafford's original works and retyped them. Being able to read through these old manuscripts was an awesome experience. To see the creative process occurring in someone else taught me that I just needed to put word on computer screen and create. I had been doing it for years, but to actually see someone else's work, finished and unfinished gave me a push.

I would go on to put together six products for Eden Studios. For AFMBE, I coordinated the Book of Archetypes 1 and 2, then Eden Studios Presents (ESP) 1-3, a generic house 'zine, and finally Worlds of the Dead. George and Alex gave me opportunities to shine and fail. I did both and am appreciative of them for giving me those opportunities. They are great guys and while I currently am not running anything published by Eden Studios, the Unisystem remains my house system for any game not tied down to another system.

The next big thing to rock my world was a/state by Contested Ground Studios. This was the first indie game that I picked up and actually enjoyed reading. The dystopian world, combined with various technology levels, and a giant city that no one could eve leave was an interesting twist. The setting was combined with a take on the BRP percentile system and given well produced digital art by Paul Bourne. I would go on to meet Malcolm Craig, help with play testing both Cold City and Hot War. The group of people Malc associated with helped to win me over on the fact that there were, indeed, cool indie games being produced.

Next up: #7rpgsplayed!

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

Sunday, November 4, 2012

An American Night's Black Agents

Miami - NYC - Boston
Chicago - Memphis - New Orleans
Seattle - San Francisco - San Diego
LA - Chicago - NYC
Toronto - Las Vegas - Mexico City

More later, if the Renfields don't get me first.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

South Bend Games Day in review

Here's a quick report on the South Bend Games Day event.

Our thanks to Mark at Fantasy Games ( for hosting the event. He was super great to work with and we had everything we needed on site to pull this off.

The first session had one GM that didn't show up. Of course, his was the game that was filled with pre-registration players (Legend of the Five Rings). Of the other three games, we had no players for one (Eclipse Phase) and not enough for the other two (Microscope and Fiasco). We shuffled the L5R players to the Eclipse Phase game and condensed the Fiasco player and GM to the Microscope game. Both games went very well and I think everyone had fun with it.

The second session had all of the GMs show up, but one game had only one player (oWoD). The player joined the Pathfinder game and the GM joined in the Savage Worlds game. We also had a Star Fleet Battles game run that session. This session also went very well. At least one of the Savage World players will be picking up an iteration of that game. The Pathfinder group were smiles at the end of their game. The Star Fleet Battles game was still going with the players mopping up "prizes" after the other two games had ended.
In total, we had:
- 7 of 8 GMs (88%) show up ready to run games
- 5 of 8 (63%) games run
- 18 of a potential 32 player slots (50%) filled (Playing a game in session one and then another in session two counts as two players.)
- 16 individuals, total, involved on-site

My goal was to see 3 games occur per session with 3 players per session. I hit one of those two goals. We only had two games in the first session. However, we had a total of 18 total players over the course of the day, which hits the turnout goal (3 games x 3 players x 2 sessions).

I knew we would have repeat players and GMs. That's okay. I would have liked to see more individuals or more games run to pad out the numbers, but I feel this was a very respectable showing. Comparing actual to goal, we get these numbers:
- 1 of 2 (50%) sessions met goal with the number of games run
- 18 of 18 (100%) players were present
All in all, I think this was a solid event. There were no costs involved. A local game shop benefited from a few sales and exposure. Players, GMs, and aquaintences were able to meet and play in events together. People played games they had never experienced before.*
For the future, things we will need to consider would include location, other types of games (one minis game per session?), advertising in general, and targeted advertising. There were many potential players in other games related to the individuals at this event that did not come out to play. There were also individuals who said they would come out, but didn't (whether they pre-reg'd or not).

*This was the secret, unstated goal. Provide a few "known" products, but also provide opportunities to play games not yet experienced.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Judgement is Here

The new Judge Dredd movie, Dredd 3D, stars Karl Urban as a law provider in Mega City One and Olivia Thirlby as rookie Judge Anderson. Yes, that Judge Anderson. This movie claims nothing to do with the Stallone-Assante-Schneider-Prochnow-von Sydow-Lane movie from 1995.

Judge Dredd is a British comic book first published in 1977 (making it the same age as my little brother).

The movie opens up with a brief voice-over by Urban slightly explaining the world. For those not familiar with Judge Dredd, it is a bad time to be alive. One megacity runs along the east coast from around Boston to south of the District of Columbia. Mortality rates are high, unemployment rates are high, and crime is so bad the “Judges” are created. In this dystopian future, the judicial system became so back logged that police officers were given the right to become judge, jury, and (when necessary) executioner. These are the Judges. The Judges are armed with special weapons (“lawgivers”), wear good equipment, and ride rad motorcycles (“lawmasters”). The movie does not spend much time going into the inner workings of the Judges, the hall of justice, and other background information such as those. It provides us with touch pieces we can relate to, twists them enough for us to realize they are different, and then shows them to us in this new world.

For me, that is exactly where this movie fails. The first Dredd movie made sure we understood the world. We knew what the judicial system was about. We understood what Judges were up against on a day to day basis. Here, we just know that Judges are similar to our police. We know the world is a gritty, ugly place. We do not know that the Judges are the ruling body of law in Mega City One. We do not know that Judges like Joe Dredd and his brother Rico were genetically created.

If you do not know the setting going into the movie, you will not know the setting leaving the movie.

That said, as a fan of Judge Dredd via the British comics and not the horrible DC comics, I thought the producers did several things correct. First, this movie is a “day in the life” look at what Judges go through. The movie opens with a chase sequence that ends poorly for the perp. By shooting the movie in South Africa, Americans will likely not recognize the scenery, lending it an otherworldly presence. The movie furthers the “day in the life” feel by only dealing with one real scenario – the investigation of three deaths in a “block.” There is no big, overarching metaplot about Judges losing control, ABC Warriors being used by an evil twin, or a big, dumb, resident of the Big Stinkie being reduced to a comedic sidekick whose best line is a “Cursed Earth Pizza” joke. Instead we receive a less than thirty minute intro to the movie with voice over, chase sequence, and introduction of the rookie Judge that Dredd must take out on the street and judge her performance.

That is what the comic did, issue after issue. It kept the main storyline in your face and focused. If there was a metaplot, it had to stay in the background. As a serial comic book series, it could not sit out front and hog the limelight. Yes, there were strips where the metaplot was in your face, but that was all that was in focus. It allows for the forest versus trees versus forest view.

The 3D special effects are put to great use in the movie. The bad guys control a city block, which in this case is a 200-story tall apartment complex, complete with shops and a medical center. Within this block, they produce a drug they call, “Slo-Mo.” The affects of Slo-Mo is that your brain processes everything in slow motion. The movie often switches view from our perception to that of the drug users, utilizing the 3D technology to give us insight into their world. Colors are more vibrant, streams of water can be seen instead of gouts of water, falling water droplets can be seen at different depths on screen, and the facial expressions of the users are slowed down to exaggerate the effect. There are not many combat 3D special effects in the movie. They are not needed.

Speaking of combat and violence, there is more in this movie than you might expect. If you find yourself thinking, “Oh, they won’t show that perp falling 200 stories and splatting on the deck,” you would be wrong. They do show it. They show bullets entering and exiting bodies. They show glimpses of skinning bodies. They show the remnants of those bodies that feel 200 stories and went splat. I would put the amount of violence and gore in this movie on par with Punisher:  War Zone. In fact, there is quite a resemblance between the two movies. Both are about ultra-violent ant-heroes going through a building killing bad guys. In fact, PWZ may have more plot to it than Dredd 3D.

The look and feel of the movie is dark and gritty. I have seen it referred to as “neo-noir” and it does appear to fit that moniker. We see the tall blocks, we see waste and trash, the hall of justice stands out in cleanliness and sterility. Judge Dredd has the look of a mean Dirty Harry* combined with Mad Max's leather, while rookie Judge Anderson is cleaner, more innocent looking. Shadows abound in this movie, providing depth and potential for meaning. Judge Anderson also provides subjectivity against Judge Dredd’s more black and white world-view. She has a life background that provides her the ability to see more possibilities while on the job than review, arrest, judge. The action is hard boiled with the Judges and perps playing for keeps in this non-stop action flick. You want machine guns? You get them. You want gas grenades? You get those, too. You want lawgivers that don’t like incorrectly DNA-coded hands trying to use them? Yes, you will see what happens to those perps, as well.

At the end of the day, this is a movie for fans of the Judge Dredd comic book series who want an over the top, action packed, helmet never being removed, gore fest where at the end of the day, perps are adjudicated.

*Has anyone else noticed that Arnie appears to be doing an impression of Clint Eastwood in the trailers for The Last Stand?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

South Bend Games Day player sign up is alive!

Player sign-up is live!

Players can sign up at the website [] or via email addressed to, please put South Bend Games Day in the title

Session One:  1:30pm – 5:30pm
Game One: Dragon Slayers
GM: Nick G
Rules:  Fiasco
Publisher:  Bully Pulpit Games
No familiarity required
3-4 players
“The bumpkins in this pissant mountain town could never have taken down that dragon. Their biggest hero hasn’t seen battle since Drozzek rode down from the Smoking Mountains three wars-to-end-all-wars ago. So yeah, we rode into town, a bunch of outsiders ready to solve that problem. And no, we don’t care what they think. And yes, we’re heroes. These yokels should worship at our feet. They sure as hell didn’t slay that dragon. That’s our dragon, and its gold is our gold. So unless you’re bringing us ale and wenches get the hell out before we transform you into a turkey and serve you for dinner.”

This play set, written by Logan Bonner focuses on the fallout after a group of gung-ho fantasy adventurers wipes out a mythical monster, and then sticks around to reap their well-earned rewards.

Game Two:  Legend of the 5 Rings, 4th ed
GM:  Jim
Publisher:  AEG
Rules taught, no familiarity required
Characters provided
3-4 players

Game Three:  Microscope

GM:  Lowell F
Publisher:  Lame Mage Productions
Rules taught, no familiarity required
3-5 players
A collaborative history-building rpg/social game. Depending on # of players we may use a slightly streamlined approach for scenes. Players will decide on the kind of world and then craft a history for it over the course of play.

Game Four:  Who Dun It?? A Mystery

World of Darkness (2nd and 3rd edition, NOT new WoD)
Published by White Wolf
Full understanding of the rules required
Number of Players: 4-7
A Werewolf, Vampire, Demon, Mage, Fae, Wraith, and a Hunter wake up in a mysterious, old mansion, unaware of who they are or how they got there. Or even why they haven’t tried to kill each other yet! Can they figure out how to get out of their perplexing prison, and why they chose to meet in the first place before the crumbling mansion disappears into the Maelstrom of the Lower Umbra over which it floats and destroys them all?

A who-done-it, locked room mystery, set deep in the bowels of the World of Darkness. Come; sit and despair with us.

Session Two:  7pm – 11pm
Game Five:  Savage Worlds
GM: Rich
Savage Worlds from Pinnacle Entertainment Group
Rules taught
3-5 players

Game Eight:  Star Fleet Battles :  Survivor!
GM:  Randy B
Publisher:  Amarillo Design Bureau
Basic rules understanding needed
4+ players
A hostile dilithium crystalline entity has assimilated a nearby convoy. Multiple ships from different empires have been sent to collect vast amounts of loot. Can you survive the monster and each other?

Game Seven:  The Tribute
GM:  Jason F
Pathfinder RPG by Paizo Publishing
Basic familiarity required, characters provided
4-6 Players
The Feast of the Dragon is interrupted by news that the envoy carrying the dragon’s tribute was ambushed! There are survivors, but the tribute must be paid. A 7th level Pathfinder.

Game Eight:  Eclipse Phase:  Mind the WMD
GM:  Derek S
Publisher:  Posthuman Press
Rules taught, no familiarity needed
Characters provided, percentile dice required
3-4 players
An introductory adventure into the world of Eclipse Phase. The party is sent on a mission investigating rumors of a black market weapons dealer offering some sort of devastating weapons technology for sale.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

How I went about setting up South Bend Games Day

I thought I would share some of the experience thus far...

Several friends and I have been tossing around the idea of running a convention or games day for years. We've had several conventions in town over the years, but nothing recently. All of us have participate in conventions at different levels, whether helping to organize, running booths, advertising, setting up, or run events at the convention.

A few months ago, I said, "Fuck it, let's do this." I contacted close friends that I knew would help, if they had the time available. All of them immediately agreed to help out. The first two steps were accomplished: mission decided and accomplices engaged.

We immediately began strategizing for location, date, and most importantly...cost. You see, my goal was to set up a games day and run it as a free or nearly free event. We scouted out several cost locations and then took the idea of how to do it for free to the next level. We could contact the local libraries and YWCA, but their hours would limit availability of the space. We looked into club houses at apartment complexes, swimming pools, empty property, and restaurants with back rooms. Local game shops were the next target. The group is on good terms with both local shops. We simply asked the first location we happened to be in after deciding to run with this idea. The answer was a resounding yes. What about the other location? I have plans for that and I'll discuss them later in this post.

While we were beginning to brainstorm and research the whens, wheres, and how muches, we began to toss around names for game masters at this event. We knew we wanted to have 3-5 tables available for two different sessions of play. Of the group helping to organize this event, all four of us are capable of running games. If it came down to it, we agreed to run anything or everything needed to make this happen.

So, we had our location and date hammered out, we had a targeted list of potential game masters, now all we needed to do was get the word out.

I started a blog on Wordpress to function as a website. I began dropping ideas there as reminders for myself and the others. I would later delete these ideas as they were executed upon. Everything goes back to the site or the email being used as the primary contact (mine).

I Tweeted about it, blogged about it on my personal rpg blog, set up a FaceBook event, and blasted it out on Google Plus. Thus, it grew. Within a few weeks, other game masters were beginning to sign up and invitees were confirming attendance on the FaceBook page.

At this stage of planning, it is down to managing the GM sign up process, then setting up pre-registration for players, coordinating any last minute details with the shop owner, and making it happen. I'm really looking forward to the event, because I have plans for what comes next.

My ultimate goal was to successfully run a games day event, bring together people who don't know each other and could make new friends (or players!), start building interest in an actual convention in the future, and begin providing a road map for others to follow on what to do or not do, when organizing such an event.

I've never organized something like this before. I've helped George Vasilakos (Eden Studios) run his booth at GenCon and Origins, I've run it alone or with help at smaller conventions, I've organized and coordinated 20+ GMs running 84+ games at GenCon for Eden Studios, I've written con/one-shot scenarios and implemented them out to a team of people I've never met, I've playtested rules for rpg books, written for rpg books, edited and helped produce rpg books utlizing remote freelancers, choreographed stunts and fight scenes for feature-length and short films, performed stunts and fight scenes for said films, and even served as second unit director for said films. But this? Nothing like this.

This is close to home. This is people I know and respect. This is for people I could see any day at any time, because we live in the same community. This is new. The only thing that comes close to it in my life right now is my wedding...which is occurring two weeks prior to this event. It's a big month for me and mine. We aim high, we aim big, and we plan to bring it all in successfully.

All along this road, Steve, Lowell, and Jason have helped with brainstorming, leg work, and everything you'd want from a great team. My wonderful fiance' has been patient and offers to help when she thinks I need it. I couldn't ask for better partners in crime.

As to future events, well, I hope to do something like this nearly every six months. Unless, of course, someone starts up a local convention. I would like to coordinate it with "free rpg day" and have it occur at both game stores at the same time. Much like the fact that everyone has their favorite game, most have their favorite game shop, and I would like to see everyone benefit from this experience.

I am sure I have left out bits. Feel free to ask questions, if you have them.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Not so old school, modern horror rpg revival?

I made this comment on Lowell Francis’ blog back on June 2, "Is there a not-so-old-school, modern horror rpg revival coming along anytime soon?" I've spent the better part of this evening browsing the Internet looking for blogs that are mostly dedicated to modern, supernatural, horror rpg topics. I have got to say, the pickings are slim. 

The biggest search hit is Matt and Monica have done a good job building their site and its Internet presence. However, it comes across more as a promotion website than it does a blog website. They also cover a lot of material that isn’t strictly role playing games. Still, they cover a lot of material.

Moving on, it becomes bleak very quickly. Blogs appear to either over-specialize or not be solely dedicated to modern, supernatural, modern role playing games. There are blogs dedicated only to the author’s favorite flavor of the World of Darkness, only Call of Cthulhu, only Delta Green, only The Dresden Files, etc. I guess that’s okay, but they seem overly anchored in those settings. If I cast a glance at blogs dedicated to fantasy settings, I see plenty of blogs that can be reviewed for use by a GM.

There are definitely blogs that have material I’m looking for:  Age of Ravens and Voices in My Head are a good start. Still, they both wander away from that material, as well. AoR dives into fantasy settings and TR delves into cyberpunk. I can’t fault them for it, I do the same here.

So, what am I missing? Are there blogs that are not overly-specialized that will allow me to Harvest their ideas and make them my own?

GenCon 2012 Haul

I spent Thursday down at GenCon 2012 with friends. As in years past, I thought I would post pics of the books I brought home. I even managed to pick up items released at GenCon, including Jason Vey's Amazing Adventures and The Paranormals Sourcebook for Conspiracy X. Not pictured is a handful of dice I picked up.

(in lieu of the GM Screen, which is the same image without "second edition" at the bottom)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Final Flesh and Retrospective

And thus ends my biweekly All Flesh Must Be Eaten game. . .


The party left the military convoy with which they were traveling. The goal was to hit Cape Canaveral, meet up with the Navy, and head to Hawaii. Having no proof that such an idea was a great option, they decided to go rogue and investigate an odd facility back up near Beaver City.

At the facility, they found a shed full of zombies, a building for observing zombies in a closed environment, two living quarters, a garage facility, a radio tower, and an office building. The entire complex was surrounded by ten foot tall fence line topped with razor wire – an easy feat to beat when your mode of transportation is a helicopter. They killed the shedful o’ zombies, discovered an underground tunnel system that connected the buildings, and a scientist.

The scientist confirmed what they had been told by an insider, that there was no known cure and everyone else had given up on finding one.

While investigating the tunnel system, they were set upon by zombies that were released into the tunnels. As it so happened, one of the zombies was carrying a 9mm handgun and knew how to use it. He managed to incapacitate one of the party members and nearly incapacitate a second. In the process of escaping the tunnels, the incapacitated party member died and took a bite out of another party member. Luckily, another member of the party was able to put the zombie down before he could do more damage.

Moving from the heat and into the fire, the cast was taken prisoner by the insider and her military squad. Quick thinking by the party led to an escape that resulted in no more PC deaths, but brought about the death of the NPC nurse traveling with the group.

The party fled back to their rendezvous point and an NPC they met a few nights prior came by (via the dead PC’s player). It was apparent that the informer and her military squad had tracked the party to this rendezvous point. All of the NPCs left behind with the gear were brutally killed and some supplies were taken. The party decided to head back to a fuel tank that they had stashed at an old farmhouse in order to fuel up their helicopter. They took a giant dump truck, Suburban, and the cable guy’s work minivan with them.

Arriving onsite, they discover the barn where the fuel truck was hidden to be chained and locked shut. They took the easy route and shot the lock off the door. With two party members in the Blackhawk helicopter, another in the dump truck several miles up the road, yet, and a fourth waiting in the Suburban, the fifth member of the party opened the door to the barn. Peering inside, he saw the fuel truck, several other trucks and tractors, plus what looked like feral human males, including an eight year old boy. The boy quickly turned and shot a .22 rifle at the party member. The other feral males brought their shotguns and rifles to bear and the party member ran for cover. Thus, started the end.

The helicopter came closer to the barn as the boy stepped outside the barn, chambering another round into his rifle. The door gunner cut a path with bullets in front of the boy, who shot at the helicopter and did no damage. The men inside the building began shooting at the helicopter, but not hitting it or the door gunner.

The party member in the Suburban grabbed bow and arrow, left the Suburban, and scrambled through a field to get behind the barn. The first party member poked out of hiding and shot the child.

The dump truck came rumbling on scene at this point, drawing fire from a nearby farmhouse. The dump truck pointed itself at the house and aimed to run down the woman shooting at it.

With the boy no longer in the way, the party member who had opened the barn door snuck in and to the side. He kept low and behind tractor equipment – staying away from the fuel truck.

The helicopter pilot brought the chopper closer to the ground, allowing the door gunner to start shooting at the feral men with long arms. The pilot’s only words to the door gunner (with 2 Life Points left to his name) were, “Don’t shoot near the fuel truck.”

The dump truck roared closer to the farm house. A farm house less than 50 yards from the barn.

The party member inside the barn shot and killed one of the feral men.

The party member with the bow and arrow managed to prop open the back door to the barn. He deftly put an arrow through the lung of another feral man.

The driver of the dump truck pulled up short and to the side of the house, providing cover for said driver to jump out. The plan? To sneak about and kill this feral woman with a shotgun who had retreated into the house.

The helicopter pilot kept the Blackhawk in place as the door gunner’s player BOTCHED his roll to near negative 20, spraying M-60 bullets throughout the barn. Several of them pierced the fuel tank on the fuel truck before a last bullet scraped metal somewhere near the leaking fuel, causing the rest of the fuel tank to go up in a massive explosion.

Faster than the speed of love, the barn exploded in a shower of splintery death. The feral men, bow and arrow PC, the PC who had snuck into the barn, and the door gunner were killed instantly. The helicopter pilot fought to maintain as much control of the bird as he could. The force of the explosion pushed it away from the barn and towards the farm house. It tore through the farm house, digging into the dirt just in front of the dump truck.

As we pull away from a close up of the dump truck driver pulling the unconscious helicopter pilot from the wrecked Blackhawk, we see the carnage of the explosion, the destruction placed upon the farmhouse, the ruined vehicles in the drive, and the giant smoke plume rising into the air as if to tell any zombie who can see it, “Come, there’s food here and it’s fresh.”


In retrospect, I picked up on a few of what I consider my old, bad habits as a ZM. I naturally prefer “sandbox” style games. The problem is that I usually don’t have any rails designed, so the cohesiveness of the party (or lack thereof) gets in the way of moving the story along in the right direction. Once the party got out of town and holed up at one of the party member’s country home, it because more driven. That stalled at one point, but then it picked up, again, with gang bangers coming out to play.

I put in too many NPCs that I wanted to be important. That resulted in very few of them being important to the players. There were a couple of moments, but it wasn’t until they met up with the military that the party would really start to interact with the NPCs. I need to let go and let them interact with the NPCs. I needed to develop more personality traits.

So, my lesson from this game is to remember not to dial the game out to the 10,000 foot level. Keep it dialed in, let the players dive deep if they want to and it bothers none at the table. Slow the pace down, unless it’s a race against the clock or combat. Make more interactions meaningful by bringing out the personality side of the NPCs. This will force me to have fewer NPCs that I want to be important.

Next up, I think I’m staying with modern, but not post apocalyptic. We will be heading into modern supernatural with horror. The group seemed keen on that, so I will send out the usual email asking for some feedback on ideas and see where that goes. I plan for it to be more structured than a sandbox and be more of a controlled setting. I suspect I will be pulling from source material such as Unknown Armies, The Esoterrorists, and Mutant City Blues.  

Thursday, August 9, 2012

And here's the second announcement you've been waiting for:

Game masters wishing to run events for Games Day in South Bend, Indiana should either reply to this post or email .
There are two time slots available for games:
1:30pm – 5:30pm
7pm – 11pm
Tables and chairs will be set up for 4-person games. We can likely accommodate one or two larger games per session. Please contact us for details.
Interested game masters will need to provide the following information:
1.       Time slot desired
2.       Game to be played (title of the scenario or just the name of the game)
3.       Game system utilized
4.       Game publisher
5.       Familiarity required (none/rules taught, basic rules understanding needed, full understanding of the rules and setting required)
6.       Number of players (minimum-maximum)
7.       Description of the scenario for potential players (your “ad copy”), please keep it under 200 words
The sooner we hear from you, the sooner we can get players signed up to play!