Saturday, August 27, 2011

Dungeon Siege III: The Causeways

One of the things I bought at Gen Con this year, was Paizo's GameMastery Map Pack: Extradimensional Spaces  which I was directly inspired to do so by Dungeon Siege III's use of the Causeways.

The Causeways are an outer planar feature that allows rapid movement between one location to the next.

This is not a brand new innovation, even in video games. Games like Diablo have used them for a long time, and I know that at least in places like the Wheel of Time, where you can enter another dimension to save some time on the material plane, in terms of travelling, they have been used.

The lure of such places fits a few things though. For one, teleportation, especially as a spell, if a very powerful tool and something many players, especially those who've actually played through to the level where they can gain it, will keep in their back pocket. This may at times leave the party in the lurch as their artillery suddenly decides that after taking 40 of his 45 hit points of damage in a single stroke, to get the hell out of there.

By introducing such a manner of movement, you allow the players to bypass having teleportation. sure, they may want it, but if customizing your campaign, don't give it to them. It doesn't exist. Movement of troops and small elite forces, such as adventurers, is often done through the use of these types of causeways. This allows the players to still have a means of moving rapidly without potentially unbalancing the campaign to the point where the GM has to have some viable reason why the player's can's scry, teleport and assassinate.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Red Wolf Conspiracy

Occassionally the Science Fiction Book Club will recommend something to me while I'm picking up say, The Barry Windsor Smith Archieves of Conan for a very low price. One of them was the Red Wolf Conspiracy. I'm always interested in seeing how new authors, or at least authors I haven't read, are doing in terms of what they bring to the genre.

The shoft list is that this is a fun book that has a fairly wide cast of characters. It involves numerous nationalities and social classes. It has magic, but isn't about throwing fireballs and lightning bolts about. It's an entertaining read.

I'll be looking at some of the specifics below so if you want to avoid spoilers, read no further.

"Pazel, however, was a bonded servant and a foreigner- even worse, a member of a conquered race."

One of the things that's interesting here is the use of one nation as a 'super nation' if you will that has bested several other nations and accumulated their people into its own workforce and borders. This does not go smoothly many times and resentments linger. Those of the 'super nation' carry an air of superiority about them and are dismissive of many other nationality's own gifts, including those of magic believing very little in it unless directly confronted.

These traits can make good role playing attributes for new characters. Those who are playing older characters, may tone down the arrogance and attitude as they may have seen their home nation at both its best and its worst. Those who are playing younger characters, or nationalist, may adopt a my country right or wrong, the ethos of the super patriot. Of course if they find out that they're all sacrifical lambs sent out to start a war, their attitude may change...

The opposite is also true though. Those who are conquered may be bitter.

"They tried to kill us for hundreds of years, and couldn't. You managed it in two days."

"Crawlies! Muckin' sewer-sippin' whorespawned grubs! I'll kill ye!"

One of the things that the book introduces is the Ixchel. Imagine if you will, the old carton characters, The Littles, but armed and armored like Tarzan or Conan. A wild savage lot who have suffered a great deal at the hands of people who don't understand them and fear them.  These individuals are assumed to bring bad luck and are hunted down. They are supposed to sink ships and do other unspeakable things. But they show themselves here as a warrior race.

This is an interesting take on a race of tiny individuals. It also makes for a different take on things. When designing your races, think of how you can make things different. Think of how you can switch things up.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Dungeon Siege III: Rare Rares Part 2

When I was discussing Anjali in the Dungeon Siege setting, one of the things I forgot to mention, and it tends to apply to many who are of a unique or rare race, is that the thrust of the character's involvement in the world tends to revolve around how they interact with others of their kind.

Drizzt: Prior to his lifting into super stardom and simulcast hatred, Drizzt didn't have a lot of interaction with other drow. When he did however, it was usually on the other side of the battle field.

Elric: Well, this guy destroys the kingdom that endured for ten thousand years.

Vampire Hunter D: While not a full blooded vampire himself, well, suffice it to say that he kills the full blooded ones.

Magiere: A half-vampire from the Noble Dead series, finds herself in a similar position to D. She has more in common with the blood suckers than she should, but she still winds up killing them.

I'm sure there are just as many instances of strange and rare races fighting alongside their fellow, such as Corum, whose race still essentially dies off despite him being on their side, but it tends to be the ones who have a steak in how their own lives are impacted by their people, that stand out to me. It may not work for every group, but when that Shardmind thinks he's doing the will of the people, perhaps he discovers that their origin is a ruse. When that Warforge decides to adept human ways, perhaps the war between metal and flesh begins in earnest.

These manner of conflicts also set up internal turmoil for the character. Is every member of their race out to get them? Are there any they can trust? Should they be fighting against their own people? It allows the character to examine who they are in relation to the world about them.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dungeon Siege III: Anjali

If you check out the Dungeon Siege III homepage, you may notice a woman on fire  with blazing hair and runes glowing about her apparently naked body. This is Anjali, an Archon of this setting.

While racial history does play a small role in the humans, such as Katarina being related to Lucas through the father, Anjali is the only non-human here.

Some of the things that makes her work though in terms of story and pacing and place, can also work for other esoteric races in fantasy games.

For one, she is human or at least human looking. When she uses her other form, her Archon form, she's still humanoid.

Two, she's been raised while not necessarily in secret, by those who know taht she is not a normal child.

Three, she is not the only one of her kind. The big bad of the series? Her mother was an Archon. The Archon's ages old origins and place in the setting? Important to the game, especially in their role as heralds to the old gods. The other Archons you encounter? Depending on how the initial encounters go, can either fight against you to the death, or provide you access to areas and put up a brief fight for the sake of a show.

Four, the Archons are rare. Remember when drow as players were rare? I'm not saying that they were 'cooler' back then, but the fact that they weren't meant to be a player race from the get go, as well as the other strange races that were introduced in the game, were rare. The disconnect some gamers have with more modern games that are fantasy based, is it's more like Star Wars and the Cantina scene where a thousand different aliens are mingling with the humans. There's nothing wrong with this appraoch. After all, some of the oldest takes on D&D, like Arduin, have some very strange races in them, but its not necessarily for everyone, especially those who grew up on Conan or Fafrd and the Gray Mouser or even Elric, who despite his heritage, didin't necessarily run into a lot of non-human character.

Five, because she's rare, she has questions about her background. She has questions about her role in the world. She doesn't quite know everything that she's supposed to be doing despite feelings she has. If she were a more common race, these questions are already answered. Its possible to play against type, but even that's playing type. How many noble drow, cambions or other evil races have we seen in addition to fallen angels, and other divine types?

By making the race of the character important and playing a role in the background and current adventurers in the campaign, you can add the unusual or the different. Beware of trying to including too much at one time or allowing players to step on each others toes with a thousand variants. Enjoy the rare character ever now and again if that's the style your going for but beware of the dilution of the default 4th edition assumption of "Yes."

Monday, August 15, 2011

Dungeon Siege III

I don't play a lot of video games. Between work, the g/f, my vast reading pile, and the occasional movie, it's rare that I'm willing to sacrifice a huge time chunk to a full fledged video game.

Dungeon Siege III is probably the first new game I've bought in quite a while. The last one probably being Assassin's Creed years after it was out.

Dungeon Siege III is far more character based and in some ways, limited than previous entries. You have a choice of four different characters to select. The interesting thing is that the characters all play different in terms of appearance, style, and abilities. They can be highly customized with various attributes that rise as you gain levels, allowing a user to play through the game multiple ways with the same character. I'll be mentioning some specifics below so if you want to avoid spoilers, read no further.

That reminds me of one of the strengths of D&D. As a whole, it's generally good to have a well rounded party. While 4th edition may have given these roles terms like striker, defender, controller and leader, in many ways, they've been a part of the game since thief, fighter, magic user, and cleric. Perhaps not always in exactly the same role, and perhaps some customization could change how classes worked in the game, such as multi-classing demi-humans in the OSR realms, but for the most part...

The game hits on a lot of high points I've mentioned in the past.

Religion plays a huge role. The main villain of the series is called the Living Saint and has a massive following in the East where the church is strong.

Family relations play another big role. The villain is after the heroes because they murdered her father. The villain is also related to the current queen and has a legitimate claim to the crown. Two of the selectable characters are related to each other.  One of the characters is a direct descendant of one of the most powerful spellcasters in the history of the setting. These things have an influence on how people see each other, they provide illumination into motivations and provide insight into what someone might do.

The game isn't that open in some aspects, but it does allow a few variations including redeeming foes, sparing foes, and taking different paths that wind up crossing the paths not taken. The writing isn't bad and there are probably a few ideas that could easily be yanked for your own campaign.

The side quests aren't always fighting either, even if they may have an ultimate effect of providing some damage to the enemy. For example, while the Queen's forces are under siege, you can set up a cannon and prevent the enemy from entering the cave complex where the Queen is holding up. There are a few examples of this combat handy but not actual combat skill tests throughout the game. When setting up challenges for the players, see what options you can provide them that don't necessarily rely straight up on dealing damage.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Revelation by C. J. Sansom

C. J. Sansom's lawyer, Matthew Shardlake, continues his tour with the authorities of his time in this novel by the author of Winter in Madrid and Sovereign. This time around, the author pits Matthew's keen mind against a serial killer. It's an interesting twist of how things can be worked in an different setting, and while most fantasy games have a lot of elements of magic to them, there are a few bits that might prove of use to someone attempting to run an adventure with murder mystery elements to it.

The first, is a wide cast of characters. Sansom isn't afraid to throw characters into the mix and then murder them off. I've heard it said before that GM's must be ready to murder their children. This is a truism that needs to be followed. While some of the characters you create may have some untold stories, keep those stories in mind and transfer them over and let the characters wonder what's going on as some of their favorites die off.

The next thing, is keep the plot moving. If the character run up against some walls or issues or, well, let's be honest, just stink at investigating, throw them a bone or two. Perhaps the villain isn't as clever as he though and leaves some evidence out to torture the players with just how smart he thinks he is? Perhaps someone the players have helped in the past has seen something and wishes to provide some assistance in compensation for the player's aid in the past?

Another factor to keep in mind, is bodies rot. In the novel, the villain leaves the windows open during winter so that the cold air will slow down the rot. In a game where blasts of ice might not be that hard to summon up, or even where magical means of completely destroying a body might be applicable, players may not discover murder has been done in a timely fashion or at all unless they use their own divination magics.

For the old school gamers, remember poisons are bad. In most old school games, if you fail a saving throw versus poison, you're dead. On the other hand, an interesting thing used here, is a poison that provide not death, but a pleasant feeling so that when the corpses are found, they seem to be in a state of bliss. Poisons and drugs can do more than kill, then can alter perception, alter reality, and without some type of anti-venom or cure-all, there isn't much that can be done outside of making a save and noting that the poison didn't enter the old blood stream.

Another aspect of the book that takes place is omens and con men. A few big fish wash up on shore from the Thames and people claim that they are Leviathan. Of course as soon as some religious significance is attached to the fish, the snake oil sellers are out selling various unguents, oils, and potions that they claim are made from the fish with various abilities to heal, cure, and do other things. Small incidents can help showcase the reality of the setting so to speak, and provide players with some interaction with the background that isn't necessarily of the violent nature. GMs feeling generous might even allow the players to make some knowledge or skill checks to see if any of the snake oil is real or might have properties that the seller's are unaware of. Its okay to let the players occasionally cheat a con man out of something he doesn't know he has.

For campaign seeds, it can be difficult to provide advice that means anything unless its specific to a campaign. For example, one of the characters here, Guy, is a doctor. He is reading a book that focuses on medicine in a whole new way. A manner that proves older books, books that have been used for decades if not longer, are false. While the same fervor is not attached to them as might be a religious text, old ideas can be hard to change. But if none of the people in the group are interested in medicine, its a moot point. It's a possible background element you might be able to introduce.

The same is true of false teeth. Here doctors are buying people's teeth for the creation of false teeth, apparently a fad that was popular in France during this time that made its way among the English. Little elements that provide a touch of, in this case, strangeness.

Having said all of that though, when you're running a game, it's not the same thing as reading a book at all. The players may simply be smarter then you or may get lucky. In a novel, the author can keep the audience and the hero guessing for quite a while. In a role playing game, the players may just stumble onto the main villain in the first act.

Go with it. Few things are more annoying than having the players do this as it's happened to me. It happens in written modules all the time. While I love the concept of the Witch Fire trilogy for the Iron Kingdoms Game, originally just for fantasy d20 in many ways, I don't think I ever saw a group have a hard time figuring out what was going on in the mystery portion of the game. Just run with it. Keep the rest of the stuff, characters, encounters, details, and other important bits, for another game or another sesson.

C. J. Sansom provides a wide cast of characters and events to keep the story going and someone looking for how an investigation might have happened during this darker days should pick up a copy of Revelation today.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Captain America: The First Avenger

Just saw Captain America, The First Avenger. It was a solid movie and I enjoyed it. I actually thought it was too short, which is a rarity for a me to think such of a movie. The actors did a good job with their characters. The little differences between the comic and movies, actually worked in the movies favor this time around. For example,I wouldn't mind seeing the origin of the Red Skull as done in the movie makes a lot of sense and makes the Red Skull and Captain America more alike in some ways.

Now I'll be talking about specifics in the movie and how they bounce around the old brain and how I might relate some of that to a role playing game.

In terms of structure, Captain America is a soldier. Prior to that, he is a patriot. He wants to serve his country. One of the reasons I like games that follow some type of military structure, either mercenary or military, is that they provide a fairly clear structure that allows the game to flow in a manner that the GM has a little bit more leeway in controlling. As shown in the film however, not every soldier always does as he's told and even in those situations, they work out to be action filled scenarios that have the soldier 'officially' in the wrong, but doing such a good job of crippling the enemy, that it still works out to every one's advantage and any actual punishments are wink winked away.

For equipment, Captain America uses a specialized mesh for his uniform to protect him from small arms fire as well as from bayonets. His shield however, is a unique weapon of defense that is painted over and over again in the colors of his home country. With his augmented strength and agility, the shield becomes both defensive and offensive weapon. It is also iconic. Few fans of Marvel Comics wouldn't recognize the red, white, and blue of Captain America's shield.

Supporting cast includes fellow officers and agents who are allied with America. Another reason why I enjoy the military structure, there are opportunities to surround the players with interesting people who may not have the same type of plot protection that the players have. Will an explosion kill a friend? Will a sniper take out an important ally?

The nemesis... I've mentioned the Red Skull already. In this version, he too benefits from the super serum that turns a man into a super soldier. It ties him and Captain America together. the actor playing the Red Skull does a great job of bringing a level of arrogance to the Skull that works well. For example, when first introduced, he is warned away from an item of great power by an old guardian who tells him, "It's not meant for normal men to look upon", or something of that nature. The Red Skull agrees with him! Other opportunities for the Red Skull to shine include his first physical encounter with Captain America, which is cut short by the destruction of the building around them.

This destruction is a good method of keeping the final fight from happening. It allows the audience to get a taste of the Red Skull's physical prowess and reveals his madness as he claims to embrace his greater than human nature, by showcase his well, red skull visage.

In many situations where there is a need for a nemesis, having that nemesis have a similar origin to the players can provide insight into the abilities, methods, and motivations of the nemesis. It also serves to set up the nemesis as someone who is just as capable as the players. a good villain needs a good introduction. He needs a good theme.

The Red Skull also benefits in that he has a lot of neat toys. His car for example, is a slick piece of machinery while his soldiers, Hydra, are all armed with high powered energy weapons with their own signature look. These touches work well for the movie in that they allow viewers to quickly identify who the good guys and bad guys are.

Captain America is also packed with high energy. It keeps moving. There are times I wanted it to slow down as it actually uses a montage of Cap taking down various Hydra bases instead of showcasing specific missions.  Keeping things moving is also vital to a role playing game. It helps keep things moving. It provides the players reasons to pay attention, to keep their hands close to the dice.

While many of the ideas are immediately of use to a super hero based campaign, they are also grounds for any campaign that requires the GM to have a military structure with a villain who shares a common point of origin with the players. Good stuff all around.

Friday, August 12, 2011

100 Fantasy Adventure Seeds

One of the books I picked up for my demoing was 100 Fantasy adventure Seeds by James 'Grim' Desborough. I love the cover which features an undead warrior standing over an injured warrior while it appears that a wizard prepares to blast him as a female with a mace, I'm assuming a cleric, watches over the fallen fighter. The cover is done by Andrew Hepworth. It's eye catching.

I don't mention too many RPG based books on my blog here because when I do review such materials, its often on a dedicated channel, and that remains true here as well. I just wanted to talk a little about how the sum of what I've read tends to interact with what I'm reading.

Anyway, adventure seed seven is 'Plague of Permutations'. the idea is that the inhabitants of the river town Oakreach, are suffering mutations and the mutations are effecting everyone. The source is alchemical waste. It's a solid idea in and of itself that could present the players with all sorts of strange mutated monsters to fight.

But there are certain settings where such a twist of a possible innocent action, can take on a more sinister nature. For example, in the Warhammer setting, the mutation effects could be caused by warpstone. Imagine a lone alchemist doing his standard deeds who happens to come under the watchful eye of the Skaven who make him perform various rituals using the Warpstone? A situation that people who've read C. L. Werner's Witch Hunter series will find familiar.

But what if instead of Skaven, the alchemist is indeed a villain and is using the warpstone to spread chaos for his patron demon deity, Nurgle?

It's not that the book doesn't have a few twists of its own and doesn't offer some follow up adventure potential, it does, but when you can look at the material and adapt it.

The greater pool of material you have access to, the great the possible mash ups you can see in sample adventure seeds and the easier time you'll have flushing them to match your home campaign.

Thursday, August 11, 2011


When you have monsters like the owlbear in Dungeons and Dragons, one has to wonder, where does it stop? The Sharktopus is the answer!

This is a bit of a silly movie but it has numerous great kill scenes. The set up is relatively simple in that it's science gone mad. There are the standard cast of characters including the professional mercenary, the amoral leader, the dubious military contacts and others of that ilk who fit in such a concept.

In terms of D&D though, the Sharktopus wouldn't even be that unusual. The film's biggest problem can even be seen as a bit of a strength in that the size of the creature varies from scene to scene. In one, it's big enough that a man can fight it off for a few seconds while a friend sees him die up close and personal. In another, it's big enough to rip a large boat in half.

But what if these are different creatures altogether? The smaller ones can be minions, killers in their own right, but pale immitations of the bigger creature.

The Sci-Fi channel has done several shows of this variety. In some ways, you coudl string them together as a modern mad science series where players are either military specialists or mercenaires that go from job to job, fighting genetically engineered horrors and various beasts that have survived slumbering for millions of years. Or a combination of both.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Gen Con 2011: The remaining loot!

Fantasy Flight Games had prepainted figures for their Cadewallon board game. These figures are based on Confrontation miniatures for the same faction. They're okay, lacking some of the subtle and superb sculpting of the original metals but it's ten figures for $30. And there were two separate boxes so yeah, both of those were bought. I keep hearing gamers talk about non-random figures. If you're one of them and haven't bought these because, "they're not what I want specifically", well, you've just proven why non-random probably will never work. At $3 a fig, it's a good deal.

OSR! Yeah, I stopped by the OSR both. Spoke very briefly with Suzie and Joe. They used to live, or at least hang out, in the Chicagoland area and head out to Games Plus! I kept hearing good things about Vornheim so bought it. Hate that cover though. Also hate the format in terms of its size. Realms of Crawling Chaos... well, it's meant for Labyrinth Lord, but really, I just bought it because it's 'Love craftian Dark Fantasy.' Last was Lesserton and Mor. This is a city sourcebook that I keep hearing good things about.  Also for Labyrinth Lord. Note that I didn't buy Joe and Suzie's monster book because I bought the Pathfinder version, also by them, that was not in the OSR both but in the Paizo booth.

I mentioned that for running the six games (one Dr. Who, two Laundry, and three Primeval, which was supposed to be four but John spared me that), I received credit for Cubile 7 products. So what did I get with that? 100 Fantasy Adventure Seeds, 100 Horror Adventure Seeds,  two Rite Publishing Presents books, The Breaking of Forstor Nagar and The Gift, Curse of the Golden Spear Part 1. My last purchase was Dragon Lines, Guardians of the Forbidden City, a BRP (same as Chaosium's Cthulhu core system).

The first two were because I enjoy generic or all purpose books. The next two were because I like Pathfinder and I like adventurers. The last... it sounded cool. I could have picked up some other stuff but I was trying to make the credit equal the amount I was spending and it worked out well.

This Gen Con was probably the first where I spend absolutely more money on miniatures and related things (such as maps), then I did books. No comparission. The Gale Force 9 Both, as well as the Savage Mojo Maps and others, along with the Coolminiornot and Warstore purchases, easily blew past the few RPG books I did buy. Hell, I might have spent as much on comics this year.

Speaking of comics, I noted before that there were a lot of third party vendors there. People who are not publishers in and of themselves or are not selling RPGs or gaming products. I mentioned Half Priced books, as well as various clothing and jewelery manufacturing, but probably didn't mention the card sellers and buyers, or the massive comic stand there. They were selling some Omnibus editions, done up for Marvel, for half price and if I had space, and more importantly more money, yeah, there would have been a lot more purchases going on there.

Anyway, the changing face of Gen Con continues to provide me with things to think about and ponderings of smacking up some of the amigos to go next year.

Tomorrow it's back to the dreaded work and then taking the madre back to the doctor. Ugh and double ugh. Worse part is that I'll probably have to stop at Games Plus to pick up some primer, as I didn't buy any while at the convention, because I still try and throw business their way when I can. Ugh again! Ugh I say!

Gen Con 2011: Day 4 or Damn My Feet Hurt!

My game of Primeval wasn't scheduled to run until 12:00 today. So I decided to hit the dealer hall one more time. I found a place selling Confrontation miniatures, including the old metal ones, at 50% off. But the same dealer was also doing insane deals on a horde of books and I was pressed for time and I wasn't going to fight that crowd outside of a few bits I managed to snag that were on the end.

The gamers there though, were very fussy. Working the overworked staff even more with esoteric requests and wanting bigger discounts and some were just stupid. For example, if you keep your backpack on your back while people are walking in and out of an aisle, are you going to get hit each and every time? Why yes Mr. Jackass, you are. It's not complicated people. You want to make yourself as small of a target as possible and keeping your backpack on your back while hunched over... probably ain't the way to go about it.

In this instance I myself accidentally cut into the line as one person was asking someone else for help while assembling his pile and expecting to stay in the line as the next person to check out even as he pulled more stuff. I didn't realize that's what he was doing and told the lady at the register I was ready to go so she took care of me. Man, I hope they get paid well or tipped or something because that booth was a disaster.

There were some other good deals on the floor, but the time limit thing kicked my ass. One booth was selling a product I'd bought the other day for like $5 cheaper so I'm going to buy the other company about that. Worst they can do is say no right? But at the War Store, another one of those 3rd party sellers I was talking about there being a lot of, they had a ton of Micro Art Studio bases on sale so I picked up quite a few of them.

The Archai booth was still running theri special where it was buy two graphic novels and get three free. As I read the two Okko novels they had, and they were both solid, and I've read some of their other material, including Mouse Guard, I figured I've get Secret History and got the Killer and Revolution in Silver.

My game at the hotel of Primeval went quick. Probably too quick. These guys are paying $4 for what's supposed to be a four hour game, but I'm not the type of Game Master whose going to provide the scenario and if they players short cut it, throw more stuff in there on the fly. I suppose I could to try and insure maximum value if you will, but at the same time, the further you deviate from the 'script' or pregenerated adventure, the more unfomcortable I'd feel. This was my first time running adventurers here though and I thought that there were some elements of the pregenerated material that could have been handled a little better.

In the postive aspect though, the players weren't short cutting the adventures through bad maneuvers. Rather, every group I had, the players got along well. There was no fighting to see who was going to be in charge or be the boss. They didn't seperate the group. They didn't back stab each other. They listened to me and I didn't have to repeate myself save for when outside conditions prevented them from hearing me.

They listened to each other. They made logical and well thought out moves that well, the modules don't take into account.  For example, in the Laundry adventure, there's a hidden element that can cause some issues in relation to a haunted house. The hidden element is outside the house. I ran this adventure twice, and each time, the characters made a full and complete circle around the house and noticed the well and investigated it. Why wouldn't they when looking into a haunted house? Primeval had a few similiar situations where it was like... why would they do X when Y is right there?

Overall though, it appeared that the players had fun. One of the other guys running Primeval, John, made some buttons, so I handed those out, as well as the rule sections I was referring during game play to try and make up some of the potential loss.

It was certainly a learning experience for me though and I'll be making a LOT more notes and customizations and reprints prior to any running. It's not that the material was heavily flawed or anything, but when running material off of PDF, the more that I can put directly onto the character sheets and have the players reference themselves, the better.

After that, I went and grabbed some lunch and some high end chocolates for the girlfriend and it was on the way home.

In terms of the convention, running the adventurers can take a lot out of you. On the first day, I ran three and on the second, two. My voice was hoarse and hurting a bit but I had a good time so it didn't bother me. More painful though, were the blisters. Mucho blisters. Still have them. Using antibacterial bandages and some wraps. Can't pop the bastards as that skin provides a layer of protection.

I stayed at the Hilton. It was a nice set up with two rooms. One room was a fold out couch. I took that because it had a hook up for a laptop. The other room had two bedrooms and immediate access to the bathroom. the bathroom had a poor design. The door didn't lock and there was a seperate door for the toilet itself.

The shower though was great. The shower I have at home sucks. Being a tall bastard at 6'6", I have to constantly bend over to wash out the old hair. Not so here! It was great. Water pressure was solid as well.

There was also a microwave and a mini-fridge. I used the fridge to freeze some kit-kat bars that I picked up during one of my many trips to the CVS drugstore... oops... lost the water bottle... oops, didn't bring hair gel or a comb.... ooopps.. feet are killing me and need bandages... etc...

The food in Indianapolis varied. There was a pizza place across for the Hilton next to the Downtown Comic store. Their pizza and soda was like $8 for two slices and a drink and it sucked. Mind you, I'm from Chicago so perhaps it's just me. There was a bbq place though, that had decent brisket. The place I went today to pick up the chocalate had a decent chicken maranaria sandwhich, but also, heavily overpriced. Champs wasn't bad as I had another chicken variant there. Another place had pineapple and spicy mustard chicken sandwich variant. My first day there I ate at the place with the train station and had a burger. It was not good.

The food prices weren't outrageous or anything, but I felt that there were generally too high by a few bones each times. If I can beat a few of the amigos over the head and go next year, I think I'll try to take advantage of the fridge and microwave. I've done that before though and it's a balancing act of too little of this, too much of that.

The other viewing pleasure of the area was the homeless. And I'm not busting on the homeless here, but there were two separate groups that I managed to listen to talking about their 'game plan' to try and maximize their 'take' of the convention goers talking about where they were going to set up, what signs they were going to use, etc... I gave out $1 to a guy who was friendly and pointing out the various bits in the town on my second day here because he didn't ask for anything. I also found that when I didn't ware the badge, I didn't get bothered. Strange eh?

The downtown area itself... well, the mayor should be beaten. Construction was the key word here and it was everywhere. Why the hell you'd want so much construction when you've got a convention going on with thousands, if not tens of thousands of people (anyone got any numbers?) is beyond me. Either the guys doing the job lied to him or Gen Con getting bumped up screwed with some time lines or the other conventions coming down the road are more popular. At any rate, that was another contributing factor to the tale of my blister ridden feet.

In terms of "weird", prior to going to the dealer's hall today, I made a pit stop into the auction hall. Gee, it's closed on Sunday. Only pick up. Shakes fist angrily at air. Hopefully if I go again next year I can remember to go there early and look for old miniatures from the old Grenadier line and others.

Traffic on the way home was a breeze outside of oh, the three storms I ran into. One of them had a few lightning strikes and one of those was very close and scared the hell out of me. Sounded like a bomb went off across the way and it all became very bright. Fortunately at that point the whole of traffic was going very slow.

The other problem is that as a dumb ass, I got off at the wrong stop so instead of being home, I was on the old South Side by China Town! The old Thin Lizzy song kept playing in my head even as Sevendust was on the radio.

Overall, I enjoyed it. If my feet weren't so tore up, I would've done more though, especially in terms of checking out the movies, paint and take, and pick up games. There were a few games I wanted to bring along, like the card game Nuts, as well as the build your board, Forbidden Island, but they, along with my dice initially, and other bits, were left at home.

In terms of technology, the laptop stays home next year. I thought I was going to die carrying that and the tablet around as well as all the damn chargers. The tablet proved its utility when on Thursday, having to run a game at 8:00 in the morning, I was able to download a dice app. I'm sure I would've found one for the laptop, but having both of them meant I could reference the adventure on the laptop and just roll the dice on the tablet. That aspect worked but I'll sacrifice that visual ease for the back ease.

I've still got to hook up my camera. I took a bunch of pictures of stupid things, like the old buildings and what not and I'll be talking about the whys of that when I ping them up. Like I mentioned before, dozens of people have done up the troll, drizzt, the privateer press stuff and other goods so I didn't see a need for it.

In terms of Gen Con news... I think the internet has spoiled us. There was a pod cast or something about the new products coming down the line for 4e and I could swear all of those products were known qualities. Sure, more information about them was doled out as well as more releases for the fortune cards for 4e but I didn't find that newsworthy.

Cortex getting the Marvel license was big but... comic licenses are tricky. Take Green Ronin with their DC line up. I don't think they've even got the whole thing done and hey, DC has rebooted the line. It was a similar problem with Mayfair had the license and I'm sure it will continue to be a problem. Is Green Ronin going to have to do a reboot? Are new fans of DC going to pick up the RPG and wonder what the hell it is and why so much basic information is wrong? Some yes and some no I'm sure.

I was personally more excited by the upcoming random dungeon rolling dice by Inkwell. I was also glad to see that Paizo is doing an anniversary edition of Rise of the Runelords converting the whole thing to the Pathfinder system, updating some of the information, and making the whole bit run smoother.

The One Ring sold well. Burning Wheel Gold sold out. Not sure what else was moving or selling though.

So that in a nutshell is my observations of Gen Con. If you don't get a chance to go, you really should at least one year to see what the fuss is about. It's more expensive then ever I admit but it can be a great time.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Gen Con 2011: Day 3 or the Day of Wallet Bloodletting

No games to run today so I brought out my check list and wandered the hallway. I made two trips as I convinced myself to buy some goods that I probably didn't need and weren't on my list but on well.

Wyrd Miniatures: Pupper Wars. It's a board game with goofy looking puppet miniatures and I'm hoping it's a big hit with my g/f. If not, I've spent a lot of money on a group of tokens that will go into the closet. I also bought the Dead Justice limited edition convention set. If nothing else more undead are always handy to have.

Coolminiornot: I picked up the preorder special edition dwarf berserkers regiment for Avatars of War as well as a painting DVD, Miniature Painting Secrets with Jennifer Haley. I was going to buy another fig but it was $40 for a medium sized figure due to its limited edition status so that sucker went back to the shelf.

Dark Age miniature gaming. I don't play the game, but one of the factions has some fantastic monsters in it. This was another unplanned purchase but the big resin brood howler, broodhound pack (2 of 'em), and mandible are mine.

Tablemaster: They have various base flocking material and if you bought the whole set it was fairly inexpensive so that's what I did. Another unplanned miniature purchase.

Mouse Guard boxed set. I'm hoping I can talk the g/f into some rpging if it involves some cute, battle axe using mice. Don't know how that'll roll as she wasn't tricked into it with other games, but she does enjoy some card games. By the way, the guys here had great bags, regular bags with good handles that you can use at your local grocery store.Archai I believe, same people who do the Artesia book.

Burning Wheel Gold and Bloodstained Stars: The guys doing this are right next to the Artesia both. When I first came there, I asked for Burning Wheel, but was on the Mouse Guard side. So pick up some graphic novels because Archai is running a fantastic deal there (bought the Cycle of Air and got the Cycle of Earth free for Okko) but then went to buy Burning Wheel Gold and Mouse Guard and couldn't get Mouse guard because that was the guys I just bought the graphic novels from. Argh! But nonetheless, cool bags. Bloodstained Stars and the graphic novels were unintended purchases. I'll have to check online as there's supposed to be another Okko novel and the books look fantastic.

Masks and Eureka: Both sounded like good all purpose gaming supplements. The former was on my shopping list, the later not but in for a penny...

Cthulhu Gloom: Speaking of card games my g/f likes... She's a big fan of Gloom so I'm blaming her for this purchase.

Maps of Mystery: I picked up the three for Deep Vistas and received a free adventure with it. Unplanned purchase but I'm a sucker for maps and miniatures as may be coming out here...

Gamemastery Map Pack, extra dimensional spaces and Swallowed whole, along with Faiths of Balance, Faiths of Purity, and Malevolent & Benign, a Pathfinder Bestiary. I didn't buy the extra dimensional spaces when it first came out because I wasn't tuned into the use for it despite something similar in say, Wheel of Time. However, after beating Dungeon Siege III... well, suffice it to say I'm at least a little motivated to have the map pack. Also received a free convention exclusive miniature that will probably be available on the website by Monday if it isn't already. All unplanned purchases.

Kings of War: I went there to see if they had Mhorgoth the Necromancer. I like the figure. The faceless necromancer with energy shooting out of his hands and playing about in front of him. So I did pick him up from my check list but... Abyssal Dwarves... I picked up an 'army deal' with a huge boxed set and the lord's war conclave and received a box of 20 undead as a bonus. Mantic will get my business again.

Dungeonmorph Cards and Font by Inkwell Press I believe. I wanted to buy the dice but they were not available so I gave him my information so that I'm on the list when it comes out.

That's the stuff I've got in front of me. When I get home tomorrow I'll open the other bags. Mostly Gale Force 9 products I'm 99.9% sure as well as stuff I bought with my store credit at Cubicle 7.

General notes...

There was at least one booth that only took cash. The guys who make the high end RPG dice and have done so for Cthulhu as well as the Pathfinder adventures. Listen, it's the year 2011. Most of the places I made purchases were using phones to run the credit cards. There is absolutely no reason NOT to be able to accept credit cards.

Year of the Smart Phone. Okay, not necessarily the year of, but man, at least the Gen Con of. I've had my phone over two years. It's a first generation G1. I keep wanting to upgrade but the data package is killing me. While there were lots of people with cameras, I think most pictures posted online have come from the phones.

Tablets... not so much, but still in presence. Interesting enough, it looks to be a mix of both the ever popular iPad's and well, everything else. Got my hands of a Kindle and man, that sucker is light compared to a tablet, it's also easy to read, and holds a charge very well. I'm very interested now in the kindle if only I hadn't spent all of that money already... argh...

Costumers... I'm not one to judge in terms of quality, effort, etc... but some general notes, as I've already said. Some of these fans are punishing themselves tremendously in the name of fun and I salute that. The humidity here is some of the worst I can recall in my time here. It's also hot but I'm from Chicago and it's hotter back home. Next, and this is for the women, the time to be pulling your skirt or tattered tassels or whatever, down below your ass is when you first put it on. It's not every five feet of the convention hall as you realize that darn it, gravity is not going to pull that sheer material past your ass. If you're going to show your ass off, go ahead. Just don't put together an outfit that you constantly have to be messing with. It can't be fun to do so and its gotta be annoying.

Dealer: No problems. Usually I have a smart ass or two that loses a sale or has me get in their face and ask them to repeat that but seriously, all dealers were awesome this year. All friendly, willing to talk, etc... The only real problem? Not enough people on check out, or in general, not enough people manning the booths. They were so busy running demos that when customers were ready to check out they had to halt the demo, run the bill, and then get back to the customer.

Technology: This should probably be filled under the year of the smart phone bit but... wi-fi is everywhere. Hotels have it, the food courts have it, the posh restaurants have it, etc... and with that, comes a freedom for charging people for internet access. I can't tell you the exact number of dealer who did NOT pay for internet access this year because the prices were stupidly high, but it's like how hotels used to charge for access to Wi-Fi. Get with the times or go home I guess is the message. Or something along those lines maybe?

Author's Alley and Paint Exhibit: Both of these were actually IN the dealer's hall. It was kind of neat and there were a lot of great pieces of art. If I owned a house or had someplace to display the art, yeah, that would have been me spending even more money I don't have.

The only thing that I am personally bummed about is the lack of my own inner circle amigos. One of them died in April of cancer. The others don't leave the state and pay to play. In the past they've come out for the dealer's hall, but as the tickets for just all around purposes are $48 a day, they are not driving 200 miles for that. It's always fun to hang out with your crew and shoot the breeze and see what other people you know think about things. Maybe next year I can talk a few of them into coming out for the whole convention and try the paint and take and the free movies and pick up games, etc... probably not. As much of a home body as I am, they are far far worse.

Anyway, that's enough rambling. It's time to read some Okko!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Gen Con 2011: Day 2

Today I went to the dealer's hall. I picked up one of the convention books with all the details in it as well. I didn't have a lot of time to look around, nor a lot of time to take pictures so no in depth reviews or notes here.

Then why was I in the hall? Picking up shirts for my girlfriend. She enjoys some of the shirts they have of dragons and faeries and undead Hello Kitty variants and what not. While picking up her shirts, some odd six in all, I did come to a few conclusions.

Parents need to start beating this children more. This isn't to say that everyone at the convention is universally rude or stupid but there were several instances where I had to remind myself that people probably aren't being deliberately rude when they bump into me. However, the people who are standing like three people's length away from a booth to look at the items and just standing there? Just my opinion mind you, but they are stupid and I pushed past them with a quickly muttered excuse me.

In some instances, the rudeness was almost a tangible force. When I came to an intersection of two major arteries, an elderly woman in an electronic wheelchair was moving from one direction to the next and the people behind me were jostling me trying to get me to cut her off. I worry about this planet sometimes...

In terms of general crowd, massive in size and scope. A lot of people in costumes of various ages. One woman in costume was busy pushing her baby along in its stroller.

In terms of the booths... and remember, I didn't get a full look around. I saw a lot of booths that were third party. Places like Half Priced Books, Coolminiornot, the Warstore, Games Plus and others. This doesn't count the hordes of places specifically selling 'geek ware' of various types ranging from the shirts I hunted down for my g/f to Celtic style clothing to the various weapon stands. There seemed to be a lot of those.

WoTC big D&D release seems to be Neverwinter Nights. I'm glad that they had banners and were making a contest of it but as a long time fan of the 'old' Forgotten Realms, allow me a moment of "get off my lawn" here eh? The whole thing does nothing for me with its heroic structured campaign and the only reason I'm getting it is the blade singer variant build in it. But I'll get it later for a better price than WoTC is selling it for today.

I did pick up some miniatures as one of the booths I passed by had some strange looking beasties, a few of them quite 'Skaven' or Rat Man to your non-Warhammer players and some huge boar or pig men that look like they would be good alternatives for the Farrows or whatever they're called in Hordes.

I then ran my two games; Primeval and the Laundry. I thought both games went well. I even had a fellow reviewer in that first batch of games, Kurt Wiegel, and encouraged him to run some games for the convention next year. The second game seemed to stall a little bit and one of the players quit after a few moments. My bad Zedd, hope that it wasn't my interpretation of the game that threw it off for you.

I do enjoy some of the buildings around here. They have an old feel to them and would make great setting pieces for almost any era game. I'll try to take a few pics of them before I leave to show what I'm talking about.

Anyway, tomorrow I'm free and don't have to run any games so hopefully I'll be able to snag some pictures. I can guarantee that I won't be taking any of the 'standard' pictures. I've seen the troll in the hall dozens of times online already, as well as the Privateer Press both setup with its awesomeness. If it's a static moment, chances are its already been shot.

Hope everyone's enjoying the convention!

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Gen Con 2012: Day 1

So I arrived at Gen Con yesterday. Coming from Chicago, it was a nice drive out. I had already seen a few warnings about state troopers out handing out the dreaded $1,000 tickets so made sure to obey all posted speed limits. There was a lot of construction coming in but I felt that I still made good time. I managed to listen to a lot of newer bands or at least newer releases that I haven't given the attention to that they deserve like the Vaccines, Cults, (not the heavy metal group The Cult), Two Door Cinema, and the new Bon Iver among others.

On the way in, there were two things that struck me. The first was that there were a lot of blown truck tires strewn along the highway. And when I say a lot, I mean thousands. It was a little worrisome seeing all that burst rubber scattered throughout the highway. I couldn't help but think that the best way to prevent accidents is to you know, dispose of such refuse before another vehicle hits it? The other thing that amazed me were the number of wind turbines. These were huge monstrous things and most of them were in full motion. The space they took up seemed minimized as they were well off the ground in order for the blades to clear the land. Hopefully this is providing some useful renewable energy to someone.

I am here this year running games for Cubicle 7. You may have heard of them. They are bringing out The One Ring, the RPG based on the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. That's not what I'm running however. I'm running Doctor Who, Primeval, and the Laundry.

The Doctor Who game is based on the newer versions done by the BBC. Primeval is an upcoming game based on the television show by the BBC that uses a very similar system. The Laundry is based on the BRP system from Call of Cthulhu and has its own take on the mythos. I'm certainly no expert on any of the games and have been reading them via PDF which can be useful but can also be slow at times.

I've already run two of the games and they both seemed to go quicker than I would have anticipated. The schedule was supposed to be a four hour slot but the players in the first managed it in under two hours and the latter in under three. I don't know if that stems from my lack of familiarity with the system, not wanting to push conflict on the players when they're playing exploratory types or that the players used, for the most part, good common sense, solid ideas, and were very liberal with their spending of story points to make rolls and avoid conflict that way.

The players seemed to have a good time and a few of them even recognized my name. An interesting side effect of, you know, using your actual name on the internet I suppose.

I have another game tonight and three more to run before the convention is over. The only thing I'm uncertain about is how the game on Sunday will go because it starts at 12:00 and I believe I have to be checked out of here at the same time.

So far the city is very friendly. I spend a lot of time walking around yesterday looking for some speakers for an iPod so that a podcast could be played at the Cubicle 7 booth. It was interesting but way too long. I was also tired from the drive. I know it sound stupid, but driving can take a mental toll on me after a few hours. I'm also six and a half feet tall so that doesn't help in the comfort department either.

I'm fortunate in that my roommates are normal people. I keep hearing horror stories from others but the gamers I played with in both games were good and the room mates are normal. So far it's all win. I still have to check out the exhibition hall. I might do that later on today but after running the games this morning and having another tonight, I may just relax and bum around a bit. Maybe check out the paint and take or watch some movies if they still have them running this year.

So far so good.