Thursday, August 22, 2013

Tales of the Far West A Wuxia Western Anthology

Tales of the Far West is an anthology of wuxia western basis for the Far West setting. I didn't back the Kickstarter but it's a topic I'm interested in. One of the things I like about antholgoies is that it's a little easier to sneak them in then a five hundred page monster novel. In between some of the games I ran at Gen Con, this was good 'buffer' material to prevent me from rereading sections of the One Ring over and over again.

In terms of why I bought it, first thing up movies. While The Man With the Iron Fists isn't going to win any awards, there were some great fight scenes. Another favorite of mine, Sukiyaki Western Django combines a lot of those elements and then there's the Warrior's Way where a man from the east winds up in the west. Of course this ignores Kung Fu from back in the day.

Anyway, you can see why I might be interested in the theme.

The book is hit or miss. For example, Riding the Thunderbird by Chuck Wendig just doesn't go anywhere for me. I found that odd as I enjoy a lot of Chuck's work. I check his website on a regular basis and have bought several of his books on writing. He has a good 'voice' if you will. Maybe it was just too short for me.

And that's exactly the problem with Purity of Purpose by Gareth-Michael Skarka. I would swear that if the RPG comes out, this is going to be the chapter opener for how advancement or combat works. It's well told but so short I was left wondering why it was included. It's basically a well told fight scene. Yeah, it's well told. Love the description of the guns for example.

Mind you as science and technology go, I wonder how longer term that will work. In most fantasy genres, the strength of the ancient swords and armor are reliant on the old magic and forge abilities that have been long lost. That doesn't necessarily work that way with technology. Hard to look at a gun from one hundred years ago and think, "Yeah, that's going to out class some of the newer stuff."

The good news is that I didn't feel lost when reading the stories. There are a few things that poke odd as odd but I assume they'll be getting more details in the future. For example, how 'magical' is the setting. Demons are mentioned as a rumor, but there are 'thunderbirds'. There's a lot of 'steamtech' but seems fairly out of the way for the most part.

The setting also seems capable of handling more than just straight up wuxia action. For example, Ari Marmell does a tale that fits soundly in the horror-suspense field. While its a little jarring compared to some of the high action we see in other tales, its told well enough and fits with one of the other themes of the setting, steam punk weird science.

That genre blending comes into focus in the tale Crippled Avengers by Dave Gross where the main characters all have some type of crippling injury inflicted on them by the villain only to have Science! restore them.

The even better news though, is that there are some solid stories in here. The strengths of Riding the Thunderbird and Purity of Purpose may have seemed weaker and out of place because they followed He Built the Wall to Knock it Down by Scott Lynch and In Stillness, Music by Aaron Rosenberg, both of which were longer and fuller and really brought the action.

He Built the Wall to Knock it Down hits a lot of the standards of 'fantasy' writing/showcasing that I've mentioned before. It includes the unknown stranger with a dark past, the building up of the stranger in terms of his strength by showcasing what a powerful fighter he is against more and more outrageous odds and then the final show down. Even better though, some of the characters introduced can make future appearances or even show up in flash backs to previous tales. It's that strong in my opinion.

All told there are twelve tales including authors like Matt Forbeck among the others I've mentioned. The electronic version is under $5 so if you're looking to dip your toe in something a little more off the beaten path, this should have you covered.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Gen Con 2013: Final Musings

Let’s call this Gen Con the final edition eh?

I don’t know if it was the mass of people, well over forty thousand according to some reports, but whatever it was, my T-Mobile phone was essentially a nice paperweight for my duration in the city. I was lucky to have 2G strength in my hotel room and the phone often just lost connection entirely. This happened most frequently while I was physically in the ICC. 

Some of the vendors in the Dealer’s Hall were not satisfied with AT&T. Having a good signal is vital when you’re using your phone to make the credit card charges. Could have cost a lot of money were it to fail.  I know a few people had Verizon and they did okay. Someone joked that there was a ‘conspiracy theory’ that the hall was blocking cell access in order to justify their outrageous prices of $100 a day for internet service but didn’t seem too serious about it.

If this is a result of the tens of thousands of people who descended onto the city of Indianapolis, then Indianapolis needs to step up. I don’t know if that’s more towers or what but for me, as much as I’m paying for my phone, having it go from portable computer to rotary phone status sucked.

In terms of people, the town seemed happy to have us. I asked about the conventions and reception and was told by several vendors that it was the biggest convention the city hosted all year around and that as far as crowds go, we were top notch in terms of behavior.

 I come from Chicago. Gen Con has nothing on a Cubs game. While I haven’t been to many, walk around after the game for a little while. If you don’t see a fight or some cat calling, you must be doing something wrong yourself.

In my ways, I think Gen Con is past the ‘gamer’ phase, or at least the ‘gamer’ phase associated with negative connotations. I think at this point, too many ‘geek’ things have become mainstream. For the last several years many of the largest summer movie block busters have been based on comic book properties.

Several of the ‘surprise’ hits like the original Kick Ass or Wanted, or even those movies that don’t do well, like R.I.P.D. or 2 Guns, are also from the comic side of things. Even when movies aren’t comic based, like Pacific Rim, how much more could it fit into the whole ‘gamer’ field with giant robots fighting giant monsters?

 Computer games that were once regulated to ShadowGate running on an Amiga, are making MORE money than those block buster movies. Games like Diablo 3 and Halo are pulling in massive amounts of people. The World of Warcraft online game, even if not as popular at its height, still enjoys a massive paying fan base in the millions I believe.

One of the fun things to see is the costumes. On one hand, I absolutely hate the potential bottlenecks it causes with people taking photos. By the time late Saturday had rolled around I wasn’t walking out of my way anymore to prevent getting in any shots. On the other, there was a lot of innovation. While there were many well done, even professional traditional customs ranging from Power Girl to barbarian savage, there were a lot of things I thought different. For example, a woman dressed as a Tardis from Doctor Who.

Some of the gestalt effects of having so many people at the convention can be seen where people who didn’t know each other, but were dressed in same genre costumes, got together to have their pictures snapped. Seemed to happen several times.

There also seemed to be a bit more age and race mix up. I saw an older women dressed as a Storm Trooper and another one as some sort of imperial officer that I didn’t recognize. At one of my games, there was a young black man who really dug the Lord of the Rings and had even read the other books including The Silmarillion. My hat off to him because I’ve tried several times to read that and failed each time. Now that may be the usual fare for other people but honestly, I think he was the first African American I’ve run for in the years I’ve been doing it.  I note his age not as a bad thing, but because I’m over the 40 barrier so I’m glad to see younger people coming into the hobby. 

In terms of ladies, plenty of representation there but a lot of them were disappointed in the pregen characters as they felt too many of them were men and that at worst, the game companies should provide extra characters for selection purposes. For example, if the scenario calls for 6 players, have at least 12 characters to cover both sexes. Personally I don’t see anything wrong with that. How much more work can it take to tweak things up?  I am glad to say that these conversations came up in pleasant surprised tones as the women were glad to see a mix of female characters for The One Ring.

For the room that I used at the convention center, room 110, to run the games, I was disappointed with the place.  Last year I ran at the JW Marriot. That room was smaller, cleaner and came with water that the hotel refreshed periodically. This room had too many tables, some of which were never used, but they put all of the games right next to each other which resulted in a lot of noise. In addition, their ability to keep it clean was lacking. The table cloth needed to be changed more frequently and the garbage cans needed to be emptied more regularly. And as far as water? Well hell son, don’t you know you have to buy that? I mean that may not have been the reasoning as there was free water available but hell man, make some effort.

In terms of weather, most of the days and most of the times, it was perfect. On Sunday it was a little hot and there were a few moments there I was like, “Aw, humidity, you missed me and came to visit from Chicago. How nice of you you son of a bitch.” But for the most part it was great. I still wore my coat though. I’m not quite an albino but I am definitely on the pasty white dude side and burn easily. As a matter of fact my face was quite red by Monday despite hitting up some face lotion that had a SPF of 15.

Last year I brought my laptop and tablet. This year I brought the tablet. Don’t’ know why. Never used it except to roll dice for Keltia because it uses d10’s and I only had the d6’s from The One Ring.  Next year unless I get some awesome apps for the convention, it’ll stay at home leaving me with just good old pen and paper.

I lugged around the slipcase of the One Ring in the dreaded Bag of Holding. It is a great little bag for tacking stuff to a game but it needs a revision for long term use. For example, the shoulder strap needs some padding to it. First hour carrying it isn’t terrible but as time goes on you’re like, “Man, just cut a niche in that and relax already eh?” It also needs two handles. For some reason it only has one . Making it a little wider probably wouldn’t hurt things either.

The good news though is it has plenty of pockets so I was able to drag some prepainted miniatures around, some dice, some pens, some small note books, a novel and my game books.  Not a bad product but a “Con Edition” Bag of Holding would be awesome.

Normally I take a few pictures with either an actual camera or in recent years, a cell phone. This year I might have snapped some of the food trucks, but that wasn’t because of how awesome it was having them, it’s because I’m from Chicago and there are a lot of things going on in legislation trying to determine what role, if any, food trucks will have in Chicago. It’s been a painful messy process and its not over yet. Chicago really needs to figure out what role it wants them to have.

The way I see it, unless it’s something really outstanding and I haven’t already snapped pictures of it in yesteryears,  I’m done with the photos. There are tens of thousands of people snapping up pictures of everything under the sun. The way it’s going, you could do a horror movie put together from different people’s video cameras and come out with not an inch of that convention hall unexplored.

This last observation may be off the beaten path but I’ll throw it out there anyway. What happened to the panhandlers? I remember one year getting up early and going to Walgreens or CVS or something and could recall a group of them talking about their plan of attack. Where each person would go, when they’d be there, and other bits. This year there were a few but no where near previous years. It made me think of when Chicago ‘cleaned’ up the homeless for Princess Diana’s visit. Same thing happen here?

So what is my summary of Gen Con 2013?

1.       Gen con is the largest convention in the city for the year.

2.       The city loves hosting the convention.

3.       The convention is growing and still remarkably well behaved.

4.       Cell phone service sucks. Seriously guys, get on that.



Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Gen Con 2013: The food edition

Let’s call this, Gen Con, the food edition. I tried to avoid eating anywhere I could eat in Chicago. I didn’t see a lot of point in going to Panera, Subway, Starbucks, or Steak and Shake when I’ve got a horde of those suckers back in Chicago I don’t go to. I get their appeal. Same as in  Chicago. It’s relatively inexpensive, it’s relatively quick and the food isn’t terrible. But…

On the way in, I treated my mom to the dreaded Cracker Barrel. While it’s not ‘fancy food’ I haven’t had a bad food experience there yet. The madre feasted on Chicken Pot Pie while I wolfed down some butter milk pancakes with eggs and sausage. The great thing? Real maple syrup. Its scary when you try to read the ingredients on the stuff you put on your pancakes and are like…. “Well, can’t pronounce half of those and don’t want to know what the other half represent.” On the 65, there are plenty of them to choose from as well.

It was a pleasant stop because my mom likes to look through the assorted goods being sold there. While I usually avoid most of it, I have been known to buy the apple butter from time to time. It’s also neat that they usually have some old style wrapping on the candy so it looks like it came from a simple time.

While in town, I stayed at the Embassy. It had a breakfast buffet style things going on so I was well feed for the most part in the morning hours. When your day job requires you to be at work at 5:30 AM every day, being at the buffet at 6:30 AM is no problem.

 Strangely enough though they start serving ‘late’, at 7:30 AM on Saturday and Sunday so it was challenging to eat and get to my early morning games which of course were cancelled due to no one else showing up. The good news is that because of that, when I went back in, they were still serving and didn’t stop till 10:30 AM I believe. The better news, is that even when I went down early, if they had already put something out, like bananas or apples, we were allowed to go in and grab it. Worked perfectly for me getting vitally needed coffee on those days.

They had a lot of the usual fare in terms of chopped and cooked potatoes, paper thin bacon that you could see through, greasy sausage, tiny breakfast rolls, small muffins, a wide variety of dry cereals and hot cereals, several different types of fruit including oranges, apples and bananas, many juices and sodas, and a tray that switched out. For example, there might be sandwiches in it or pancakes or French toast. It allowed the place to keep up some variety. Of course the great thing? Coffee. Gotta have the coffee while on the out and about.

For lunch, my ‘budget’ side came out as I was often running games during those times so I made sure to have some protein meal replacement bars and some of the snack variety bars to prevent the taste of one horrid meal completely ruining the eating experience. While the protein bars are not for everyone, their low cost and easy of use factor are still at use in my daily life as I’ll often snag one for breakfast if I’m late for work or low on funds for lunch.

The ‘cool’ thing for me was the food trucks. I don’t remember there being quite so many of them last year. It was a near overwhelming selection of options. The prices weren’t bad either. Mind you if you wanted something to drink they were going to snag you on that front pretty much where ever you went.

At the recommendation of some of the others, my first stop was in a Louisiana food stuff and enjoyed a Shrimp Po Boy sandwich that came with fries. I can say it was the best meal I had in terms of taste. Spicy but with flavor, not just heat. I then ate at the Pullman, a fairly well known restaurant. I had a simple cheeseburger with bacon. It costs $15 and since I usually throw 20% tip in, costs me $18. At that point, I didn’t eat at a restaurant again.

So then it was a turkey sandwich that disappointed. The outside looked very fancy and I thought it was a hot sandwich for some reason. Generally I won’t pay for a cold sandwich because hell, as lazy and bad as I am at cooking, I can make a sandwich. The good news is that the carrot cake was fantastic. It had a rich soft flesh that was easy to pull apart. The frosting was heavy and creamy and tasted very fresh.  It was also a decent sized piece of cake.

Along the line another food truck I stopped in at Ali BabasCafé, a Middle East style serving and enjoyed a chicken sandwich on pita bread and in another instance, the pretzel truck. The pretzel truck was insanely busy as they had a huge order a bit before I got there and it took over twenty minutes to eat.  I was super annoyed because I just wanted a cinnamon pretzel for desert and could’ve went to a few other desert trucks that weren’t busy but figured I was already in line right? D’oh! The good news is that it was a fantastic pretzel. Don’t know about that time wait but…

Some of the trucks were from restaurants around the area. Makes sense as I can tell you many of the sit down places were just walk in and eat. For me, after that outrageous price at the Pullman, I figured I might as well stick to the food trucks. Seriously, if you’re a restaurant serving the ICC, be aware of the trucks and have some con specials that deliver real value. Mind you the ‘sports’ places that are really serving beer don’t have to worry about that, and I suspect the coffee shops don’t have to worry about that.

Speaking of coffee shops, Bee CoffeeRoasters had some great stuff. The guy behind the counter was pointing out the variety of stuff they had and I ordered something on the expensive side and busted his chops a little. “Wow, it’s just like Star Bucks. I feel like I’m at home!” His reply was something along the lines of, “Oh come on man.” They had some fun flyers and other bits in the window that were a nod to AD&D. He told me that the gamers of Gen Con have a great thirst for coffee and they were glad to provide it! He also noted that they allowed some of the food trucks to use the facilities in exchange for food and seemed quite pleased with the arrangement.

Like much of downtown, the trucks were in on the whole ‘science-fiction-fantasy’ theme that Gen Con brings. There was sandwiches like the Han Solo for example at the pretzel place. Some went to more trouble than others with fancy menus.

Food wise, Gen Con has the benefit of being in the heart of downtown so you can spend however much you want. I still think it would be wise though if the smaller ended restaurants cut back on their prices if they have to compete with the trucks. If I go again next year, I may have to actually take advantage of the refrigerator in the suite and use that for making some grub in order to spend more in the main hall itself.

What  did everyone else eat? I know that the Ram is very popular and for me, that was part of the problem. Since I didn’t drink while I was out, I tried to avoid anyplace that was going to be packed due to the drinking activities. I saw a Dick’s Last Resort there and I’m pretty sure we have one in Chicago. There were also a few steak joints lined up that I didn’t hear too much about. 

I also didn’t hear much, either good or bad, about the convention food itself. Well, not quite true. The pizza I heard was ‘okay’. Bad news thought is I’m from Chicago so I wasn’t going to chance it. Don’t get me wrong, I know Chicago stuffed or pan pizza isn’t for everyone but it is for me. As a matter of fact, when I came home Sunday, I took mom to an Italian eatery.  One person at one of the games though, had a sandwich that actually looked not only edible, but tasty. I also know that coffee and other liquids were being sold in great quantities based on the amount of trash in the convention center.

I think I’ve got one more recap in me about the stuff at Gen Con so until then, good eating!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Gen Con 2013: The Games I Ran

I ran two different game systems this year and was glad of it. In previous years it's been three or more. It's certainly possible but it's easier, at least for me, when I only have to split my attention between a few game systems. Even better, of the eight games I ran, only one of them was not The One Ring.

That one was Keltia. Last year one of the games I ran was Yggdrasill. Keltia is the tales of the Celts and the original ad mentioned King Arthur. Maybe something like Cornwell's Warlord trilogy? The later is Vikings. It uses a d10 system and isn't that bad but some of the layout in terms of where everything is and some of the rules are a little wonky.

The fun thing about Keltia is that there was no book this year. Thankfully it uses the same rule set as Yggrasill so when I finally figured out that there would be no PDF even of a pre-release, I hunkered down.

The game allowed an assorted group to hunt down rumors of dark magics and fight against the supernatural. It was a fairly straightforward romp which was great compared to last year's Yggdrasill game which ran over the four hour limit for me on both games which for my games, if anyone's played in one, is rare. Like super rare. But it appeared everyone had a good time.

The One Ring on the other hand, is one I'm a bit more familiar with as I've run it before and its crunch level isn't that bad. The only bad thing about it is it's what I call "fiddy". There are all sorts of little things to take into account. Did you meet your target number? Did your roll an edge? Did you remember to roll your battle dice at the start of the combat? Did you note your starting fatigue?

The other 'problem' with the One Ring is that it's not really designed for a con game. You see characters have an attribute Hope. Players can spend them like action points but doing so makes them more vulnerable to being miserable which leads them to have bouts of madness. Chances of that happening in a one shot game? Possible if there are a ton of things dishing out shadow points but not too likely.

There are also other elements, like recovery in sanctuaries after the 'adventure' is over but again, not something that's probably going to get hit too often in a con game.

The adventure, The Wind From the South I think, was fairly straight forward. It involved several combats against a variety of enemies. With the two separate journey checks, there was opportunity for more potential misery to be heaped on the players. The best thing? The open ending where the players have a HUGE variety of things they can do. You see they must rescue a daughter of Rohan from some rogue Woodsmen who seek her cursed magic right to fight against the forces of Dol Ghuldur.

I can't recall every instance but...

In one campaign, one of the players who was playing a Woodman of a similar background challenged the chieftain to single combat. The elf sang to bolster his spirits and reduce the Hate score of the villain. The player took a good beating but with some excellent rolls on his part and the elf's part, the chieftain broke down in tears at the foot of the Fellowship realizing that his dream of opposing the 'Master' with such a meager item of magic was doomed from the start.

In another one, the players did a fighting retreat which wound up with a few of the players again taking a fair beating but managing to fight their way out with the Rohan Rider and the ring which they purified of evil.

In another, the players caused a distraction in the main hall by starting a brawl while their other comrades searched for the woman of Rohan.

In another, the players caused a distraction by singing and creating a festival mood. The men of the fort, while 'evil' so to speak, weren't at open war with the Woodmen and there were two woodman who just immediately joined into the dinner and began eating and roaring and role played it out till they were singing and doing tests to make the nose louder while the 'bard', a giant Beoring, started a 'wave' of people shouting and smashing cups against tables.

I try to be ready with the rules and had hand written a few pages of notes. In most instances it didn't matter or they weren't needed. For example, I mentioned the whole battle dice check at the start of combat? Yeah, I probably forgot that more often then not.

The good thing though, was I continued to learn from the players. Last year someone showed me how to put together a quick chart to visualize the character's stances for combat and I brought some miniatures along with me to throw into that chart so the players could easily see how they were arranged not in line order or anything, but what rolls they needed to hit or be hit.

This year was pretty good on my side and I hope my voice, which I started to lose on the first day after the first game but never fully lost, wasn't too bad When I ran, I asked every group if there were things they wanted to see or things I might want to incorporate for the next group I had to run and either they were all shy, and trust me, most of them didn't seem the type, or they had a good time. I'm hoping it's the later.

Personally, I haven't run into any 'real' problems with gamers. I keep hearing horror stories about it but its all been good for me. I hate to say it, but I think a lot of those problem players are in the D&D or Pathfinder camps. Not necessarily because those games draw those people, but because those are the most popular games.

When I ask if people were playing the One Ring, the almost universal answer was no. It wasn't because they didn't want to, it was because "this is D&D town". I know where they're coming from but at the same time, I know where the people who only want to play D&D are coming from. It's like an old familiar boot you can wear whenever.

There were a lot of great moments in the game. In one failed Journey test, the players could either take some automatic fatigue or test for poisoned water in Mirkwood. One of the woodman boasted of how everything at his pond was alright and then rolled the Eye of Sauron so of course was poisoned while everyone else was fine. The player did a good job of doing the whole poisoned stick too so that made it even better as some of the other people were like, "Man, he must've drank all of the poison because I feel fine!"

I did learn that gamers apparently don't like to be up at 8:00 AM though. Both my Saturday and Sunday games at that time slot were cancelled due to no-shows. It would be AWESOME if Gen Con could have a Check In App or something where people could see how open a game is. I say this because all of the games I ran were in the system, sold out. I think I had one game where all the tickets I collected were for that event and every other game I had some generics. If people could check an app and see that "Hey, there's still room here", these games might be able to be filled at a better ratio. Maybe something like Foursquare but for games run? Scan the specific tickets and it sends out 'alerts'?

Anyway, what did everyone else play or run? I was hoping to get in some games myself, and this may sound stupid, but when I realized my voice was going, I decided against it. Cubicle 7 was awesome enough to bring me down to run games and people signed up for them and they deserve "the full Kushner" so to speak, not some half mute guy waving his arms franticly in the air to indicate damage.

Gen Con 2013: The Loot

Remember when I talked about resellers? Bam! That's what this pile is. From left top to bottom right.

First pile is some high elf lion axe men on top of some Freebooter assassins that were on massive discount from the Warstore. Remember when I was talking about resellers? Yup. They had a ton of Freebooter stuff, a lot of other small company stuff that wasn't moving, and some of the larger company stuff that wasn't moving. Guy was taking offers on lots of stuff because they didn't want to carry it back.  I wasn't going to buy them at all but I have a fondness for high elves from the Warhammer world. I probably have a thousand points or so of them and one day may actually play. The Freebooter assassins? The box was $20 bones and some of the individual figures can run that cost.

Second pile is paint. I'm always looking to expand my paint collection with stuff I don't have or in the Winter Weathering set, techniques I'd like to try. That pile of L5R stuff? Three for ten or one for five. I'll probably never use it but I've had an itch to rum some Samurai action and if nothing else, it may prove inspiration for something else.

Second row is a metal mule. While I love Privateer Press, I hate that new plastic mercenary model in and of itself, especially for the mule. I've been looking for a metal one for a while and this one was like $18. Speaking of the mule, I picked him up in the auction hall across from the dealer's room. Another pitfall to being a game publisher and creator of content coming to the con to sell, is having to pit your wares not only against the resellers, but against your former buyers who are selling your stuff at the auction. I went twice to the auction hall and it was rammed both days.

That pile of historical books? Got it from the same place I picked up the paints and it was buy one get three free. I've just started on the Samurai and the Sacred and it's pretty good, but at this point, I think anyone whose read any Osprey books on Samurai is expecting to see Stephen Turnbull's name on such a book. 

On the left is the new edition of Wyrd's Malifaux which sold out quickly. On top of that is the Nightmare Edition. I'm disappointed by how small it is. In theory, Wyrd moved to plastic because of the price of metal. They've made larger metal models than this sucker. I admit to 'suckertude' because I bought it due to the limited nature along with the book so I could get the last one on top, Miss Step, a female cyborg con exclusive that you had to spend $100 bones or more to get. I was thinking about getting some more stuff but to be honest, I'm not playing the game yet. One of my friends does though and I'm hoping to get into it in that way but as I've noted, other sellers had the other material Wyrd did, sometimes at rock bottom prices. I figure I'll try and finish some stuff this way and see where it goes.

In the center on top are three decks, all illustrated the same, with some dice. They're like zombie cards. I figure I'll keep a deck for Wyrd, as it uses normal cards, and give one to my g/f who is a fan of all things gothic. I picked it up because they were inexpensive and I don't want to say novelty, but I haven't seen them outside the con.

In the center under that is the limited edition adventure being sold by Gale Force Nine. Ugh. It looks like crap on the inside. By deliberate design, they've taken art and other elements from every edition and put little 'cute' yellow sticky notes all throughout the book with rules, by their own admission for DnDNext that are outdated. And they decided to make it a con exclusive that costs $30. You know, when most of the rule material is actually online for free eh? Yeah... I'm thinking they should have charged less, made it vastly widely available and put it online to download for free. When you're boasting in the interior how the new game has 140,000 people on it but you've noted in previous discussions that MILLIONS of people have played, well, I wouldn't be talking about those numbers and would be trying with much more effort to get the game out there. Here's an idea, go see what Paizo did with some of their playtesting and improve on that. Ugh. Ugly ass book.

The Grex is me being a sucker. I have a Patriot 105 that I've been using for base coating and three layer coating where you basecoat one dark color, spray from a slightly higher angle a lighter color, and then almost from the very top an even lighter color. Do that and a wash and some touch ups and you've got some good table top miniatures going. The guy running the Grex booth allowed us to actually use it. Not so the guy running the Badger booth. He also didn't have a credit card minimum.

Don't misunderstand me, the guy running the Badger booth was a wellspring of knowledge. He had a lot of information on how the different types of brushes work, he, unlike the Grex booth, had the new line of paint as well as cleaner and other bits Mind you I didn't see any air compressors but I could have just missed it,  Still, not having a sample of the tool available for people to use, and having a minimum to charge... those things struck me wrong. We'll see if I made the right decision as time goes on but hey, at least I'll be using some of that Badger paint in the machine eh?

And the last pile of loot starts with some Doctor Who goods from Cubicle 7. While I'm not a huge fan it's an easy system to run and the reading is easy. The books on top are Never Unprepared and Odyess, both by the guys who do Gnome Stew. I bought the former because of store credit and the later because they were relatively inexpensive impulse purchases.

Next to them are some miniatures for the Razor Coast by Center Stage miniatures. I enjoyed razzing the guy about the late 28mm Demons and Devils stuff but he took it in the spirit it was meant and tossed some right back at me. I enjoyed the banter and hope I didn't come off as too much of an ass.

I initially was going to buy some GCT studio's Bushiod but they only took cash so I returned to the OSR booth and got in an order for the giant frog demon. The other miniatures there are some Bombshell Babes. When the guys doing the Bombshell Babes initially did their Kickstarter, I thought it was too T&A. It's not that I've got anything against T&A but let's face it, for most female miniatures, that's ALL they've been. There are exceptions of course but the vast majority is T&A so I've been well covered for years on that front. I was glad to be wrong thought as there are several great figures here including one that would be a perfect female version of Solomon Kane. I bought these miniatures because I haven't seen them in the store and hey, I can save on shipping and handling.

Above them is a book that's like City State of the Sea Kings or something. A massive tome for the old City State of the Invincible Warlord setting. I'm a sucker for that setting. While I was introduced to it through the 'vile' version by Mayfair, I've since gone back and picked up a lot of the older Judge's Guild stuff. I haven't looked at it yet though.

That map and the little booklet under the Gale Force 9 miniatures is proof that Dwimmermount is still chugging along. While the book itself was supposed to be available at the convention, that fell through but at least something made it to the wilds eh?

Speaking of Gale Force 9, the miniatures I bought because I haven't been able to get them from Games Plus. All Games Plus, a normally fantastic hobby shop, has been able to get, was 'Wave One', the purple worm and mind flayer raiders. Now here's the 'funny' thing. They were supposed to have some other figures as well and even had a price sheet for them on the main sheet. These weren't large banners or anything so I'm puzzled as to why they didn't just take those price sheets down and remake them. They were standard sized sheets for Gumby's sake.

In addition, they also got hit by the 'shipping demon' as many of the figures didn't make it the first day. That worked out for me thought because the line to buy was around the booth. The next day it was pretty much a walk in and buy. A 'funny' store about my purchase. I told the guy that I was buying so much because my FLSG couldn't get the Wave 2 and later releases. He told me NONE of the material had actually been shipped. Uh... I may have mentioned above that I already have some of them and heck, even painted the purple worm. He actually argued the point with me. Why he would do that I have no clue. Heck, unless I'm misremembering, some on swear they got Wave 2 stuff. Ah well.

I didn't even look at the Privateer Press limited release bit. While I've actually been painting up stuff and am prepping for actual play, the limited mini did nothing for me and it's going to have a more general, and to me, more useful release down the road.  I'm sure I missed some other opportunities like Coolminiornot had options to get some limited figs if you spent X but I'm not playing Hell Dorado, and despite having a good selection of Anima figures, not playing that so no need to buy those at full price to get something I'm not going to probably ever play.

While I spent more than enough money, I'm pretty happy with the fact that most of the stuff I bought falls into a few small categories. It's either stuff I could only find at Gen Con, or stuff that was so inexpensive that buying it at full price later would mean it's simply not going to be bought.

Anyone score any awesome swag? Anything you missed that you wanted to buy?

Gen Con 2013: The Dealer's Hall

Popping in some thoughts on Gen Con 2013 that I'll try to break into chunks that are related to one another.

+Mark CMG snagged some photos of the dealer's hall and I joked that it was more like a flea market. Only I wasn't really joking.

For years, decades even, the 'dealer's' has been less and less about publishers and more and more about stuff. Note I'm not putting this into a negative context as I bought a lot of that stuff myself.

However, with that change of focus, I have to wonder what the overall effects are?

For example, there are several resellers with prices better than the company. It's great to see Games Workshop at the convention. They also have a leg up on resellers in that they have Forge World items with them. However, it's going to be a tough sell if a buyer knows across the way they're selling GW stuff for 30%, wait it's Sunday? I mean 35% off. There were also booths selling books three for $10 or buy one get three free.

And this isn't necessarily 'old stuff' either. I wouldn't place money on it, but I could have sworn I saw a few booths selling the new Wyrd boxed sets for the 2e game at 20% off on Thursday. Imagine that you are a game company and you came out with a game that you need to sell and there cutting you off at the knees are one of the stores you sell to. And trust me, there were multiple stores in the hall that were resellers. You can't necessarily say, "Hey dude, would you mind not selling this stuff here because you know, your space isn't as important as my space?" Probably not going to work.

And in terms of publisher woe, well.... When I've mentioned Kickstarters and gaming publishers, I have mentioned that I'm not surprised when something is late. I've mentioned that in many if not all Gen Con's I've been at, something happens that is not good for the publisher. Cubicle 7 took a beating from their printer this year on multiple books.

In terms of selling all you got... well, that can be a good thing or a bad ting. For one, gamers like the shiny and if your shiny isn't out when they want it because it sold out, there is zero guarantee they'll want it later when it's restocked. This happened to a few spots like Wyrd with the 2nd edition book of Malifaux or with Gale Force 9 and their Firefly game.

Gen Con exclusives are another reason I can see a game publisher actually going to the convention. Gale Force 9 had a dndnext adventure that looks like it was deliberately put together badly and is, in my opinion, hugely overpriced, while Privateer Press and Wyrd continue with their Gen Con limited edition miniatures. For Wyrd it's not that big a deal as they often have a 'general' release of whatever miniature it was that had a special edition at the con.

In terms of 'stuff', I personally bought some zombie styled dice and cards. Not a card game mind you, just cards. I also buy my g/f shirts ever year because she likes some of the art and prints.  Sometimes I'll snag her a hat or something else along those lines.

For credit card use, there were still a few booths that couldn't take a credit card. One company I wanted to buy from, GCT Studios, had a 'sweet spot' of $100 for two starter factions and the core book but only took cash. What type of expectation for cash carrying do companies have? "Well, everyone carries around a stack of hundred dolla bills no?

Another vendor who was selling Badger air brushes, would only allow people to use the card on Thursday through Saturday and only if they were doing a $40 or higher purchase.

People, you need to join the rest of us in the new era. When hot dog vendors are using square  and other solution providers to that and your solution is to stick your fingers in your ears...

Let me pick on GCT studios again for a second. Entrance into the show itself probably isn't cheap. Then you're from overseas. While I was standing at the booth, I saw at least two interested parties have to pass on a purchase. Ironically enough, if they stumbled upon the company's website, they COULD use a credit card to make a purchase. If you're not going to limit your sales online in terms of how you accept payment, why would you do that to yourself at a convention? Do you think the people walking through the booth are going to be like, "Man, they are financially wise by avoiding any transaction fees at all. Pure profit for them." or do you think they'll be like me and go, "Gee, the OSR booth takes credit cards and damn does that big frog demon from Center Stage Miniatures look sweet.

Another interesting thing was the fact that the guy from Badger was there at all. And he wasn't alone. The guys from Grex were there as well. This to me indicates a growing acknowledgement of the importance of Gen Con to those markets. I hope they both come back next year. Strangely enough, I didn't see any Scale75 sellers or AK Interactive sellers. I think that with stores like Games Plus there, that +RK Berry needs to get out there and provide some of those ranges, including Andrea, that just aren't being sold there.

In terms of the organization of the hall?

Whoever put the garbage cans in the middle of the aisles should be beaten.

The standard 'con' rules should be in place for the beating of stupid people. "I know foot traffic is going this way, but hey, I'm slender and this fifty pound back pack isn't going to hit anyone else when I fight against that flow."

"Hey, I know that people are trying to move, but shit, this is Larry here. Larry! I have to have a conversation with him straight in the middle of the hall. Screw common courtesy. That shit died in the 80's man."

"Listen, this tweet I received is very important and I have to stop. Come to a dead stop in the middle of the floor and look at it."

There were other sorts of behaviors I saw that were I a younger, angrier man might get me in trouble but those days are long over.

A good thing/bad thing about the acceptance of how far the hobby has come, is that there were a lot of people in various types of mobile devices. Some of these manual hand powered wheel chairs, one of them piloted by a woman whose speed and control of her vehicle was fantastic, and others, most others if not all others, using the electronic chairs. I don't begrudge anyone the right to come to the con and enjoy it. I do think however, that as the con grows and the need to accommodate these devices grow, that they need to expand the paths themselves if not the halls.

I also think that they need to increase the hours of the dealer's hall. While I know that sounds crazy to pretty much every person who works the hall the reality is with so many of the 'dealer's' not being publishers but being vendors and resellers to begin with, they'd probably be cool with it and it could help to alleviate the number of people in the hall at any one time. It could even increase sales. Crazy talk. That whole ending at 4:00 PM on Sunday thing? What the hell is that? When they first started doing that, did someone have to get to Church or was that the time they started legally selling beer?

I apologize for the ranting. Let me see if I can summarize.

1. Resellers are selling your stuff cheaper than you do.
2. Credit Card acceptance still not at 100%.
3. New types of vendors and sellers in the hall.
4.Lots of exclusive releases still hitting the dealer floors.
5.Lots of great deals on older games.

I'll be back with more thoughts after a LOT of sleep. I hope everyone had a great con. Were there any weird encounters at the convention? Any bits you think should have been better?

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Samurai Assassin

Samurai Assassin is an old school Samurai action film. The plot is fairly simple in that well, it's a story of a skilled swordsman who uses his skill to assassinate a high ranking lord.

The devil is in the details as they say though.   , the start of many such films ranging from Seven Samurai to Red Loin and dozens in between, is a ronin with a concubine mother and unknown father. He seeks to gain status in an era where samurai are preparing to fall by the wayside of history.

I'll be discussing some specific things from the movie in context of how they might be useful.

1. Domino effect. The conspiracy against the Elder lord occurs because of the  Ansei Purge. This purge occurs because of a lordship appointment that others disagreed which in tern leads to the purge in which in turn leads to the conspiracy. A domino effect.

2. Secrets. Niiro Tsurichiyo longs to know who his father is. The effects of not knowing lead him down a path that he otherwise would not have taken. The fact that others know though gives the viewer some insight into how things might have turned out which adds to the depth of the character.

3. Social Status. Along with the secrets, the 'real' problem that Nijro faces is the implications of social status. By not having an acknowledge father of rank, Nirjo is a man of no consequence. When he and a princess fall in love and seek to marry, that appointment runs straight into the wall of social status where the daughter is going to be married off to a high ranking official and Nijro is left desolate and turns to a life of liquor and violence as a remedy. Another aspect of the social downfall comes in another wave a learned scholar sees that change is about to happen. The scholar sees that things are going to move in a very different avenue and he ties his fortune to those of the conspirators.

4. Record Purge: During the conspiracy against the Elder, among the conspirators, there is worry of a traitor in the midst. Nirjo, because of his outcaste status and the scholar, Kurihara. The hunt for the traitor initially leads Nirjo to kill Kurihara despite their friendship. Turns out that Kurihara was not the spy and the murder was for naught. The leader of the conspiracy purges the historical records that they are recording for their own records in order to show 'purity of cause'. If the players are in a setting or system with a lot of research involved, there may be times when the records they are using are doctored not because the records are 'false' per say, but because the people who set down the records had their own view of history that they wanted preserved.

5. Unintended consequences. The conspiracy seeks to kill the elder not because they wan the downfall of the samurai society but because they want to preserve it. The exact opposite occurs. When seeking to undergo some specific goal, if the characters are unaware of all the consequences of their actions, the underlying effects may be the exact opposite of what they seek.

6. Arrogance. In some ways this is linked to the whole social status area. The Elder lord is aware of the conspiracy. He is warned several times of the possible movements against him. He is warned of the physical threat to his life. He doesn't believe it. He is so certain that no one, especially members of one of the Great Houses, wouldn't move against him, that he doesn't take extra precautions. He doesn't change his routine. Indeed, he falls right into the 'trap' set for him.

7. Weather. In terms of combat, when the time to strike comes, the even happens during winter when the Elder is going to the Peach Observance in the middle of a freak winter storm. This reduces visibility. It creates dangerous terrain on the ground. It limits the use of missile weapons due to the wind and visibility.

Samurai Assassin has a lot of ideas that can be used for a variety of campaigns where social status and social uprising and change are in the air.

Saturday, August 10, 2013

The Silver Call by Dennis L. McKiernan

Sometimes originality is overrated.

For all intents and purposes, the Silver Call by Dennis L. McKiernan is a sequel to Lord of the Rings.  The book was originally written as a single book but for publication broken up into two books, Trek To Kraggen-Cor and The Brega Path. Then republished as a single book. Strangely enough, The Silver Call is not available as a kindle book.

In Lord of the Rings, remember that old dwarf hold where they fought the balrog and ran from the kraken and it had magic doors? Yeah, turns out that sometime after the great battle where the enemy is killed the dwarves decide, you know, it's time to clean out the old dwarf home and end the goblin menace. And for the most part, it works.

Dennis uses a lot of description and a lot of backstory to fill in Mithgar. He uses a long overland trip to allow the characters to appreciate other bits of culture. Warrows, the Halfling substitute, for example, don't really appreciate the night sky and the stars contained within. The dwarves on the other hand... The dwarves also have a thing about a falling star representing fallen comrades. The culture building is good to crib notes for when designing your own bits and pieces for cultures.

Instead of halflings, we have warrows. Their kick is that they're a bit more fighty then halflings and have gem like eyes. Instead of the Shire, we have The Root. Instead of Sting, we get Bane. A lot of other similarities exist that I'm sure someone else has already documented but again, for the most part, if you ever wondered what would have happened...

And in terms of working with RPGs, that's often a good place to start. Have you ever seen a RPG that tried to reinvent the wheel? Sometimes you can get away with it like John Wick does with Wicked Fantasy and his 'heroic' take on Orks back in the day.

When looking at material that you drew the initial inspiration from, or even the rulebook, when the source showed X but what about Y? It's one of the reasons the Star Wars setting has so many variant settings as the authors explore different spots of the setting and bring different facets to live. Game Mastering can be much the same if you're working with source material that you want to expand beyond.

For example, in the revised Conan books from 'the hack', Conan winds up on a great last adventure where he sails beyond the mainland. What happened next? Who takes over the throne? Where did he go?

Even when looking at settings that appear new, crisp and original to new fans of the work, like Dark Sun, may have seemed to new players of 4th edition, when looking at some of the potential inspiration for it, like the various Planetary Romances, where can new threads be drawn from? What if there is some cosmic alignment and the various comings and goings from the different worlds are interrupted and the characters from different times and planets wind up on a new harsh world looking for heroes?

Friday, August 2, 2013

Kickstarter: The August Update

So where are the Kickstarters? Tectonic Craft Studios is over a year late. Dwimmermount is a year late. The book was supposed to be available at Gen Con but hey, that ain't happening. Steampunk Musha... I don't want to say I've given up on it but... 28mm Demons & Devils is supposed to be well and truly on the way. Imbrian Arts has sent some stuff out but I've yet to see any of it. Assimilation Alien Host hasn't seen out the backer's survey yet unless I completely missed it. Relic Knights isn't going to hit for several more months from what I understand. A Gallery of Rogues is due soon.

And we have two new entries. The Cthulhu Mythos Foundry Style and Drake the Dragon Wargame.

 A few other things have made their way over though including Wicked Fantasy by John Wick and the second wave of the Mantic figures. Good deals in both instances. Midgard Tales showed up. Nice physical construction on that book.

Project Name Due Date Date Late Days Late Months
Tectonic Craft Studios 6/1/2012 8/2/2013 -427 -14
Dwimmermount 8/1/2012 8/2/2013 -366 -12
Steampunk Musha 10/1/2012 8/2/2013 -305 -10
28mm Demons & Devils 3/1/2013 8/2/2013 -154 -5
Imbrian Arts Miniatures 3/1/2013 8/2/2013 -154 -5
Assimilation Alien Host 5/1/2013 8/2/2013 -93 -3
Relic Knights 5/1/2013 8/2/2013 -93 -3
A Gallery of Rogues 6/1/2013 8/2/2013 -62 -2
Cthulhu Mythos Foundry Style 7/1/2013 8/2/2013 -32 -1
Drake The Dragon Wargame 7/1/2013 8/2/2013 -32 -1