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 FlamesRising.com. 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 DerekAS@gmail.com .
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!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

South Bend Games Day announcement

Announcing South Bend Games Day! Info first, links to various items at the bottom.

Coming October 13:  South Bend Games Day, a role playing game event hosted at Fantasy Games in South Bend, IN
Join us for two sessions of high adventure and gritty action starring your favorite role playing games. There will be two sessions for games and four games per session.
Interested GMs can sign up at the South Bend Games Day website or by emailing Derek (derekas@gmail.com).
Sign up for interested players will be completed in a similar manner, after we post the games for official sign up. We’ll do that just as soon as we have the GMs signed up!
Questions should be addressed on the SBGD website or via email to Derek. Fantasy Games is not managing this event, so they will be unable to properly assist you with questions related to the games.

Main Site

General announcement

GM announcement

Player announcement - coming soon