Friday, November 20, 2015
"What?" I hear you asking. "Isn't Munchkin already a casual game?"
Well, yes, but this is a casualer...more casual...version of the same game. You play a game in an hour. Honestly, that is a great thing. I am hoping that this means that we're going to see more casual versions of this game line. I'd love to see a basic version of Munchkin itself boiled down into a couple of decks, that you can just easily carry around and play in a smaller space. This is what makes games like Fluxx (and its near endless varieties) such a great game, you can toss it into a purse or backpack or handy Think Geek Bag of Holding and whip it out at places like the coffee shop to play.
The easier it is to play and move these games around, the easier it will also be to recruit new people and make new gamers.
Underneath, this is still the same Munchkin, so it you know how to play the game you aren't going to have to learn anything new. Because they went for compact and portable, some things are missing. There's no die, and you will have to come up with your own method of level counters. But, I think taking a die from another set (because you do have other Munchkin sets in your house...right?) or grabbing a couple of index cards to use as counters(or even if you just write on the back of one of those coffee shop napkins) fixes this quickly and easily.
I am a great advocate of casual gaming. I like my games, across the board, to be simple and portable, but with enough scalability to be able to add more detail if it is wanted by the people playing. The Munchkin games are pretty good about that, and there are enough sets these days that there should be a Munchkin that will appeal to almost anyone.
Like I said, I hope that this is successful enough that we see a Munchkin Lite. I think that it, and Munchkin: Christmas Lite, will be excellent for the casual gamers in your life.
This game costs $9.95 and will only be available until January (or they run out), so grab yours soon.
As a side, if we're making requests for casualer versions of Steve Jackson Games' games, I would like to put in my request for a quick and easy playing version of Illuminati. Please and thank you, as the kids say. Tweet Follow @dorkland
Thursday, November 12, 2015
Effective immediately, this blog will no longer promote Kickstarters.
Now that a lot of people have gone, I'm going to discuss the whys of this decision. This is something that has been peculating in my head for a while, and I think that I've reached the point where it is time to make a change.
Tweet Follow @dorkland
Friday, November 06, 2015
An aspect is a word or phrase that describes something special about a person, place, thing, situation, or group. Almost anything you can think of can have aspects. A person might be the Greatest Swordswoman on the Cloud Sea. A room might be On Fire after you knock over an oil lamp. After a time-travel encounter with a dinosaur, you might be Terrified. Aspects let you change the story in ways that go along with your character’s tendencies, skills, or problems.When I talk about about aspects with players, particularly players who are new to fate, the first thing that I try to explain is that there is one slight difference between making a Fate character, and making a character with a lot of other traditional systems. Where a lot of other RPGs are built around coming up with as much detail as possible for your characters, Fate is built around the idea that when you build your character you are highlighting those parts of your character that are important to you as a player. The aspects that you choose for characters are the important "aspects" of your character, to you, and for the GM they are flags for the kinds of stories that you want to take part in as a player.
A player whose character's aspects are built around romantic relationships and feelings want to play in a game that, if it doesn't revolve around romance it should have romantic elements to it. The same goes for the player whose character is about exploring the unknown. Consciously, or unconsciously, one of the determining factors around a player's choice of aspects should revolve around these two things: what is important about the character to you, and what sorts of stories you want to be a part of crafting.
This is where the "Establishing Facts" part of the mechanical weight of aspects comes into play. Sometimes this is lost in the shuffle because of the fact that Invoking and Compelling both have direct impacts on play. Establishing Facts, on the other hand, have a more indirect impact on play. For example, one of the players in our group has played Spirit of the Century and wants his character (a talking gorilla) to have been a part of the Khan's army before breaking away from it. After making a high concept aspect around having been a part of the Khan's army he then asked "Does the Khan exist in your world?" My answer was "You established the fact of the Khan in your aspect, so yes. He exists in this world." In a lot of ways, "Establishing Facts" is one of the most powerful parts of an aspect in the Fate rules, but it can easily be forgotten.
My advice to players making aspects is always two-fold: be flavorful and be succinct. Let me unpack these.
Be Flavorful. Aspects should be exciting and dramatic. Not only do they describe your character, but they will help to guide the drama of the story as your games develop. Why "be flavorful"? I would turn that question around and ask "Why would you describe your character in a way that isn't exciting?" Particularly in a pulp-inspired game, where you are playing characters so much larger than life, you need to make sure that your aspects are up snuff for the characters.
"Mediocre" Aspect: Science Adventurer
"Fair" Aspect: Body Built By Science
"Superb" Aspect: Shaped By Secret Sciences To Save The World
Just note that there really isn't a problem with any of those aspects. Any of them have their uses in games, but it will be easier to work in Invokes and Compels when your aspects have some drama to them. Not only is the writing for the "Superb" aspect more dramatic, but it also helps you to establish at least one fact about the world that you are going to be playing in. The most obvious fact would be the "Secret Sciences" part of the aspect. Does this mean that there are sciences developed in secret, away from the prying eyes of mankind? Does this mean that there are lost sciences, from civilizations hidden away in the fog of time? It can also mean that there is a group behind the scenes, using these sciences to create heroes (or villains) like your character. When you put all of this together, you get a "Superb" aspect. It is so much more than just the writing of the aspect itself, although that helps too.
Be Succinct. Why is this important? I will admit that this is probably more of a personal preference, but I think that an aspect that is more compact is easier to use in play. Sentence-length aspects can have their place, but they end up with extraneous information that could be broken out into other aspects. This ends up making an aspect "too" useful when it comes to invoking, and it can make compelling difficult. For example, the above "Superb" aspect could easily have been written as "Raised By A Secret Council Of Scientists To Save The World From The People On It." This is still a valid aspect, but it also has a lot of information that can be overwhelming in play, and it limits the choices from the above paragraph as well.
Spelling out too much in an aspect is like creating too much of a backstory for your character. Yes, it gives your character a rich history, but it also takes some of the fun out of the story that is going to emerge during play. When you put more detail into the parts of your character that you are not going to play, it can inadvertently give you fewer options for your character when you get to junctions in the future. For my style of play, the emerging story of your character is much more important than what has happened before. It isn't unusual for the actions of your character to shape them in ways that you didn't expect when you created that character, and that is a good thing. Aspects can be changed during play, that is a part of using the Fate rules, but it is also good to not create your own road bumps in the emerging story.
Creating aspects is like any skill. The more that you do it, the better that you get at it. Think about the existing mechanics, as well as the story that may emerge during play. Craft your aspects accordingly to optimize both your approach to the mechanics and to the story. Tweet Follow @dorkland
Tuesday, November 03, 2015
There was a not unsizeable gaming announcement made today:
AEG is excited to announce that we have entered into a deal with John Wick Presents to sell back the publication rights for the 7th Sea game line. AEG will still retain rights to publish a number of products within that line over the next few years and we are negotiating and planning what that will be but have no announcements at this time.+John Wick also announced this on his YouTube channel:
Wick originally codesigned 7th Sea with Jennifer Wick and Kevin Wilson.
At the end of his YouTube video, Wick announced that he would be doing a new edition of the game in 2016. Tweet Follow @dorkland
Thursday, October 22, 2015
|This cover is awesome. I had to pick it up.|
I think that one of my favorite things about comics, one of the absolute cornerstones of the medium, that keeps me coming back to it is the heroic legacy of characters. This has nothing to do with continuity. Fuck continuity, most of the time it just calcifies storytelling and leads to empty wankery.
Today at the comic store I picked up The Shield #1 from Dark Circle Comics (aka the fine people who bring us Archie) and the new creative team of Chuck Wendig, Adam Christopher and Drew Johnson.
I have been anticipating this comic since it was first announced. I have been a fan of The Shield and the various "Archie Super-Heroes" since the 80s revamp of the characters under Rich Buckler and the Red Circle Comics. Then in the 90s I loved the Impact! Comics featuring these characters put out by DC Comics. I even liked the 2000s revamp from DC Comics. These characters may not always stick with comic readers, but they represent a legacy that goes back to the golden age of comics and that is (in part) what makes them so important.
This is a new Shield for a new era. This new comic upholds the legacy of the old comics, while rebuilding it for new ideas and new sensibilities. The Shield was the first patriotic hero in comics, and that isn't forgotten in this book. This new Shield is patriotic and proud of her country, but not in a jingoistic way. The patriotism of this books isn't an "America right or wrong!" type of patriotism. It is a patriotism that comes from loving your country, and loving the fact that other people want to be a part of your country, and that with loving your country comes the responsibility of doing the right thing for it...and on the behalf of it.
I don't know if that makes much sense, but I was brought up to love my country because its people weren't afraid to do the right thing, even at great personal consequence, not because it would bring accolades or fame, but because it was the right thing to do. This is also at the root of the concept of super-heroes, and why super-hero comics are predominantly such an American thing. This desire to do the right thing out of love for your country and super-heroes are so deeply entwined that comic book super-heroes start to falter when you move away from that base line of doing the right thing.
Wendig and Christopher's writing manages to create a character in Adams who is both grounded in the real world of the 21st century, and who is also larger than life and legendary. Johnson's art helps with this in no small part. The three of them create a world for our hero (and yes, she is very much our hero) that manages to be both realistic and epic at the same time.
Why is a heroic legacy so important to storytelling? When done right, they can show us how we can do grand things and be larger than the world around us. With The Shield, Wendig and Christopher have created a larger than life character who lives up to the legacy of The Shield. They have created a hero who is ageless and a product of their contemporary world, just like every other good super-heroic concept that outlasts its creators. This was a comic that thrilled me while I was reading it, yet made me sad that I have to wait 30 days in order to see what was going to happen next. That feat alone is something that doesn't happen every day in my comic reading, and that is why I will be back for more next month with The Shield.
If you like super-hero comics you really should be reading The Shield. Put it on your pull list and demand that your store stock it, if they don't already. Tweet Follow @dorkland
Monday, October 05, 2015
I'll be honest. I have a definite bias in favor of Delta Green. And, if for the only reason that the timeline of the setting will finally be pushed past 9/11 and into the new century, I support a new iteration of Delta Green.
Many, many years ago, when I was still living in Cleveland, I went one day into a newsstand/magazine shop (something that you don't see very much of anymore) and I found something peculiar. I found a gaming zine. A. Gaming. Zine. I had heard of this zine in passing because it actually shared a printer with another zine that I bought when I could, the official Cyberpunk RPG fan magazine called Interface.
I could go on about Interface, but it is only tangentially connected to the story at hand. The other zine was one that focused on Lovecraftian material, and had quite a bit of support for the Call of Cthulhu RPG. This magazine was called The Unspeakable Oath, and it was published by some people who called themselves Pagan Publishing. This particular issue of The Unspeakable Oath was interesting because it was a sort of cross over between it and Interface. There weren't any articles or characters that crossed over, just concepts.
See, as I said these people all shared a printer. While working out having their respective zines printed, the creatives from both of them met. This lead to talks about the thematic similarities between Cyberpunk fiction, and the Chtulhu Mythos fiction that H.P. Lovecraft and his circle of writers spawned. So, they decided that they should cross pollinate in their zines.
Interface had an issue that brought the Mythos into the realms of the Cyberpunk RPG. It was an interesting piece, and I won't lie...I used material from it in a Cyberpunk campaign of mine once. It was well written material. The Interface issue is currently in a box in storage, and I hope to see it again one day soon.
The issue of The Unspeakable Oath had something pretty cool in it too. It had a modern day (modern day to when the issue came out) Call of Cthulhu adventure featuring government agents investigating a UFO siting that, unfortunately for the investigators, turns out to really have to do with the Mythos. This adventure was the first time that Delta Green made a public appearance. It was an awesome adventure, and for someone who enjoyed Cthulhu, conspiracy and weird alien shit in my gaming it was as if doorways opened up in my mind. I wanted...I needed more.
Keep in mind that The X-Files hadn't aired yet at this point.
I'm not sure how much later it was but the people at Pagan Publishing put out an immense setting supplement for the Call of Cthulhu RPG called (you guessed it) Delta Green. It had all sorts of options for running a Call of Cthulhu game in the modern era (a time period that Chaosium mostly stayed away from in favor of the eras of Lovecraft's fiction). It was great. Then, a bit later, they put out a supplement for their supplement that was bigger than the initial book. Delta Green: Countdown expanded the world and the conspiracies in it. The writers expanded the role of the Mythos god Hastur, and talked more about Robert Chambers' eerie King In Yellow. These books were some of the best things ever written for the Call of Cthulhu RPG.
Now, it isn't a secret that the once and former Chaosium wasn't a paragon of professionalism. So it shouldn't come as a surprise that when we fast forward to today that the people who have been publishing Delta Green material all these years might want to be able to have more control over their game and what they publish, and not be at the whims of Chaosium's nature. Note that this is just conjecture, and not based on anything that the people at Pagan Publishing/Arc Dream Publishing have ever said, but knowing the hole that the previous Chaosium had dug for itself, it honestly wouldn't surprise me.
This isn't the first crowdfunded Delta Green book (I have two books that they put out before Kickstarter existed), and I doubt that it will be the last. However, if you are a fan of any of the things that I have talked about in this post, you really should get out there and support the Delta Green Kickstarter. These people have consistently done some of the best Lovecraftian RPG material on the market, and with your help they will keep on doing it. Tweet Follow @dorkland
I'm sure that's a confusing sentiment. Hopefully, I will make it clearer as I put this post together.
I picked up on the second edition of Stormbringer, and the supplement/stand alone game (don't ask, it was the 80s) Hawkmoon, both adapted from the works of British fantasist Michael Moorcock, when a friend brought them to college with him. I was already familiar with Chaosium's horror game Call of Cthulhu, because I had picked up one of the boxed sets while I was in college, and I had a passing familiarity with Runequest at this point, but Stormbringer was new to me. I borrowed the two boxed sets that he had in his dorm room and read them (each game is probably less than 100 pages of text, so this wasn't that hard). My diagnosis? I hated the game. I felt that, despite being a well made game, it did a bad job of simulating Moorcock's works, and because of that I wasn't interested in the game. I wouldn't come back to the game until the Elric! edition (probably closest to being a 4.5 edition of the rules) a number of years later.
While I still think that the first few editions of the game aren't very good at simulating Moorcock's works, I do think that Stormbringer (talking the first through third editions) is probably one of the best dark fantasy games, perhaps second only to first edition Warhammer) that the RPG "business" has managed to produce.
I admit that I have never really been a huge fan of the Dungeons & Dragons stream of fantasy role-playing games. Class and level based games just don't get me as interested, which is why I am more interested in the games that Chaosium has produced over the years. I love dark fantasy. Whether we're talking about Moorcock or Smith or Howard or any number of other writers in the genre, that kind of fantasy gets me a lot more interested than the works of Tolkien or his imitators. This is why I regret missing out on Stormbringer for so many years.
Really, we have two "streams" of Stormbringer. I don't want to call them editions (since there were in fact five or so editions of the game), but there was definitely a philosophical shift in the game between the third edition (produced by Chaosium in conjunction with Games Workshop...which would inspire the creation of their house game Warhammer) and the fourth edition. While the game did move closer to the source material with the fourth edition, it also managed to somehow become more generic at the same time. I'm not really sure how that happened. For the rest of this post, I'll refer to the first three editions as Early Stormbringer and 4th, Elric! and 5th edition as Later Stormbringer. There's no real judgment in this split, it just seems the best way to break up the conversation.
Why do I think that Early Stormbringer is such a great dark fantasy game? Where other RPGs had magic-users who could throw fireballs, Early Stormbringer would have your sorcerer character summon and bind a fire elemental to their will and then compel it to throw fire at your opponents (or perhaps you could even throw an elemental at people, even though this would be a wasteful use of an elemental). This flavor difference alone makes for a whole new gaming "ballgame." In the Later Stormbringer, this was diluted by the addition of spells with more traditional effects.
"Classes" in the game aren't really classes in the sense of D&D, and they aren't yet quite the Professions or Occupations that we will find later in other Basic Roleplaying Games, either. They are a cluster of skills and bonuses to skills that make character generation go quicker. When you have a class-based game and you want a "Fighter," you just pick the appropriate class, roll up some attributes and go. In games like Runequest this process can take longer because you have to pick out all of the relevant skills and everything else. Stormbringer shortened this process with their classes. Combined with random determination, it might actually make Early Stormbringer characters as fast to make as an early edition D&D character. And considering how fragile characters could be in either game, fast character generation could be important.
As often as not in the early days of gaming, I think that Ken St. Andre and Steve Perrin accidentally created a game that was so much better than the one that they intended to create. For example, Stormbringer characters were much more "heroic" than early edition D&D characters, without being the "super-heroes" that a lot of old school gamers disdain. I like a "heroic" character much more than I like the zero-to-hero approach. I want to play Conan or Elric. I don't want to play the guy who is going to be Conan or Elric.
I think that much of the stripped down and quicker approach of the rules owes itself to the design sensibilities of St. Andre. His Tunnels & Trolls rules were the definition of stripped down, in an era when even D&D didn't have a lot of rules. His approach to gaming is to keep things simple. Combined with the sensibilities that would bridge between how D&D was played and how Runequest would be formulated (Perrin came up with the highly influential and widely adopted D&D house rules known as the Perrin Conventions that would inform the creation of the Runequest rules), Stormbringer is a tight little example of how a game can be simple while still being a highly robust engine.
If I had to state a preference between Early Stormbringer and Later Stormbringer, it would probably have to be for Early Stormbringer. The simplicity, the ingenuity and the robustness of the design all combine in a game that hits a sweet spot for me. The best part is that the fact that, for me, it didn't do a good job at simulating Moorcock's work just means that it all that much better of a game to use for a variety of campaigns that I would like. I wish that I could go back and tell my younger self to get over it and play the damn game. This way I would have decades of fun with this game behind me, and I probably would have spent a lot less time looking for "the right game" for my fantasy needs. Luckily, that isn't a worry anymore.
I think that I want to add a Red Sonja game using Early Stormbringer to my gaming bucket list now.
If you're interested in a "clone" of Later Stormbringer (the Elric! version and 5th edition), be sure to check out Chaosium's excellent Magic World game. This is (basically) Stormbringer 5e with the specific Moorock-related IP stripped out, leaving behind a really good set of fantasy rules. Unfortunately no "clone" of the earlier, more rollicking, editions of Stormbringer yet exists. Stormbringer also still exerts an influence on contemporary role-playing games. The seminal indie game Sorcerer by Ron Edwards shows an influence of the demon summoning from Stormbringer in its own demon summoning rules. Tweet Follow @dorkland
Friday, October 02, 2015
Amidst all of the hustle and buzz of the moving and the house selling, I am emerging from my cave for a few days to attend Necronomicon in Tampa on October 9th & 10th. My availability will be limited, so if you want to meet up, or play a game, contact me in advance so that we can work something out.
Here's my schedule for the con:
White Ibis South
How to Get Started Publishing Games
What Makes a Game Fun
What's New in Gaming
Space Opera Then/Military SF Now
I'll be hosting the Space Opera Then/Military SF Now panel, so my expertise isn't as important to that. The block of gaming panels will likely be entertaining, as least I hope so. If anyone wants to meet for a late lunch or some gaming midday on Saturday, get in touch.
The convention will be at the Grand Hyatt Tampa Bay, on Bayport Drive.
Hopefully I will see some familiar faces. Tweet Follow @dorkland
Monday, August 24, 2015
|Lamentations of the Flame Princess publisher James Raggi and a copy of the new print run of Vornheim.|
The blog has been quiet for a while since Gen Con. Who knew that getting a house ready for going to market was so much work? I certainly didn't. I also didn't expect to haul as many bags of rock as I have the last couple of months. Regardless, "real life" work has eaten up all of my free time of late, and cut into my ability to write both here, and over at Bleeding Cool. Being a grown up sucks.
So, this post isn't about my talking about the fun of landscaping and painting. No, it is to talk about the eminent return of Zak Smith's Vornheim supplement. Today, Lamentations of the Flame Princess publisher James Raggi informally announced that the new print run of Vornheim was done, and ready to be flung out into the world again. The second print run is double what the first was, with 4000 copies this time. Considering that Smith's latest A Red & Pleasant Land has just about gone through its print run in 9 months, I expect the second printing of Vornheim to move just as quickly (if not faster).
For those who do not have a copy, you might be asking "What is this Vornheim of which you speak?" Ostensibly an OSR product, I see Vornheim's place now as being more the opening shot of the OSR offshoot that has been named "DIY D&D." Where the OSR would be philosophical and exploratory about discovering the play styles of older games, and revisiting the older rulesets in a way that would make them available again in ways that wouldn't require spending hundreds of dollars on eBay, the DIY D&D movement focuses on play that is happening now, with or without older rulesets, and how you can create material that grows organically from play. In a way, DIY D&D is very much a return to the idea of the early days of the hobby, the idea that groups generated the material that they needed for their table themselves, using their chosen ruleset as their foundation.
When gaming became big business in the 90s, there was a move away from this idea, mostly because gaming companies wanted to make money from campaign settings, character option supplements and many other things that groups had previously made mostly for themselves. Yes, some of these things would eventually be published, like the Arduin Grimoires or any of the Judges Guild material, but that consumerism wasn't the focus of gaming groups.
With the release of Vornheim, Smith triggered a return to that Do-It-Yourself mentality. Yes, Vornheim was published in book form, and pieces of it appeared over time on Smith's blog, but the primary idea of Vornheim isn't to sell you something that you drop into your game world and play until you kill all of the monsters in it. No, the idea of Vornheim is to teach how to do it yourself, how to build a city that will engage and intrigue your players and get them to want to have their characters explore it. This is why Vornheim's subtitle is The Complete City Kit.
The idea of Vornheim the book is to give to GMs a set of tools that will allow them to create their own interesting and unique fantasy cities. There have been a lot of fantasy city settings over the time of gaming as a hobby, and a business. What makes Vornheim so different, and much more useful in the long run, is how it shows GMs and players how to make their own worlds, their own cities. The setting of Vornheim is an example of how you can use the tools in the book Vornheim to make a city. It is a worked example, and not just a bunch of stuff thrown together to fill out a book, because the setting of Vornheim was developed over years of play. This is the two big things for DIY D&D from my viewpoint: make things that are useful for your game and use your game as the basis for what you make.
There is a huge amount of different between the feel, and utility, of gaming material that is written for the sake of filling a book, and material that is written to fill in the gaps in a campaign. While our hobby was built on the idea of the latter, it has evolved into being about the former. Big books are written to fill spots on supplement treadmills, because gamers have been conditioned to let game designers do their thinking, do their working for them, instead of realizing the simple reality of tabletop gaming: the best stuff is that which grows out of play, at the table. Getting back to this mindset is what makes DIY D&D so important, probably in some ways more important than the OSR out of which it grew.
The reason that Vornheim and Red & Pleasant Land have sold so well isn't just that they are so much more creative than a lot of what is being made in the D&D space, but because of the idea that they give permission again to GMs and players to do more than just engage with material as it it, but to make it their own. Our group ran Red & Pleasant Land as a classic Marvel Super-Heroes game set in 1970s NYC. Would we have done this without the idea of DIY D&D? Probably, but we're probably also not the most representative of gaming groups either.
Outside of all of this, Vornheim is a great toolbox for a fantasy GM to have. It ranks with the Midkemia Press book Cities for usefulness in creating and filling out a fantasy city. One of the things that makes Vornheim useful is the fact that most of the tools are designed to be used on the fly. I don't think that I have gotten as much use out of a random chart as I have the "I Search The Body" chart in Vornheim. The Urbancrawling rules let you make sections for your city on the fly. The front and back cover drop tables speed up combat and creating adversaries for the PCs. There are a lot of useful things to be found in this book.
Not only that, but there is going to be a renaissance of use of this book. People will be using it at their tables, and bloggers will be talking about how great it has been to use it in their games. Those 4000 copies are going to go a lot more quickly than anyone thinks, and then they will be gone for a while again. Does anyone really want to be one of the people who has to watch everyone else talk about how cool this book is, and how much they've enjoyed it in their games? Don't be that person. Tweet Follow @dorkland
Sunday, August 02, 2015
It is Saturday of Gen Con, and tomorrow I go home. It was a busy con, and a weird con.
Zak won some ENnie awards for Red And Pleasant Land, and Contessa won one for best blog. Good goings for good people.
More importantly, however, I got to meet Jeff Grubb at the Monte Cook Games launch party for the Cypher System Core Rulebook. Jeff Grubb, as anyone who reads this blog really should know, was the creator of the original Marvel Super-Heroes RPG.
Now for me, there are really two seminal games for my gaming: Call of Cthulhu and Marvel Super-Heroes. These games showed me that there were things besides fantasy to gaming. I might not have continued on with my gaming if I hadn't have found these games.
Regardless, Marvel Super-Heroes has remained one of my favorite games. I still play the game periodically (in fact we played a game of it a few months ago), and still have fun with it. It is a fairly simple game, and it may not be the most modern of games, but I like it.
So, I walked up to Jeff Grub to introduce myself and a stream of nonsense that might have come forth from my mouth.
The long and short of all of this was that people should get over themselves and follow do things like talk to our idols, even if we sound stupid when we do it. If I hadn't have approached him I would have regretted it. Eventually (sort of) I calmed down enough to talk semi-coherently with him. It was pretty cool to get to talk with him. I'm not going to forget it.
This is what makes going to Gen Con so cool. It is always nice to be able to meet the person who helped give you so many hours of entertainment. It is also cool to be able to tell them this.
This is still posting from the phone, so excuse the ugliness.
More to come once I get home and rest up.Tweet Follow @dorkland
Wednesday, July 29, 2015
I'm not even at the airport to head to Gen Con yet, and this news happened (I'm blogging on my phone from the shuttle):
TACTICAL ‘MECH COMBAT RETURNS TO THE PC. Harebrained Schemes is pleased to announce their return to Kickstarter this Fall to partner with backers in co-funding the creation of BATTLETECH. Jordan Weisman, the creator of BattleTech and MechWarrior, is back with the first turn-based BattleTech game for PC in over two decades. Steeped in the feudal political intrigue of the BattleTech universe, the game will feature an open-ended Mercenaries-style campaign that blends RPG ‘Mech and MechWarrior management with modern turn-based tactics.
Sorry that the presentation is ugly, there aren't a lot of frills from the phone version, but I wanted to get the basics out. I'll pretty this up, and get more details to you when I'm at an actual computer.Tweet Follow @dorkland
Sunday, July 26, 2015
Okay, so it turns out that I lied...I do have another post. As gamers, I know that all of you have maps...so here are some maps related to Gen Con. Save them to your phones and/or mobile devices and make sure that you don't get lost on your adventure this upcoming week.
You can also find a PDF of the Exhibition Hall here.
These are all .PNG files, so you should be able to blow them up without them getting fuzzy.
Downtown Indianapolis (Around The Convention Center)
Indiana Convention Center (1st and 2nd Floors)
The Nearby Hotels Where Con Events Are Scheduled
Tweet Follow @dorkland
So, before the radio silence I wanted to get a couple of short, capsule reviews out of the way while they were still on my mind. Neither of these are really new books, but they are new to me.
The Complete Vivimancer. I had heard good things for a while about this book, and I have the PDF of Norman's earlier Theorems & Thaumaturgy, which had a lot of interesting ideas in it.
I love weird fantasy stuff, and I love spell books for fantasy games (they are my favorite types of supplements for fantasy RPGs), so this should have been a big hit for me. Guess what? It was.
This slim A5 books is basically a "splatbook" for the Vivimancer class created by Norman. They are a spell-casting class that focuses on "bio-sorcery," which is, for all intents and purposes, magic that impacts the body. Whether via sorcerous genetic alterations to people, animals and plants or through physical or mental alterations to the Vivimancer or their targets, there is a lot to add to games in this book.
Campaigns with the Vivimancer will probably quickly move to horror, and even body horror, genre explorations, so if you don't want these elements in your campaigns then this might not be the book for you. However, even if you just use this book to plunder for new spells for the Magic-Users in your campaigns, instead of using the Vivimancer wholesale, there is still a lot to get out of this book. The Complete Vivimancer contains a write up of the new class, 130 new spells (and complete "Basic" and "Advanced" spell lists for the class), a sampling of squicky new magical items and some rules for the use of magical laboratories in your games.
Obviously, with the basic similarity of many OSR systems, this book can be used not just with Labyrinth Lord, but with Swords & Wizardry and Lamentations of the Flame Princess as well. In fact the Vivimancer would probably be at home in most Lamentations games. I would let parents be the judge, but this book probably wouldn't be suitable for most games with younger players involved in them. You can even use this book with your Basic and Expert D&D books to bring a weird fantasy edge to your games.
I can't wait to use this in my next fantasy game. The fact that flipping through the pages have given me many ideas, not all of which are player-character friendly, is a good thing. I thoroughly recommend this book and suggest that everyone who runs an old school game grab a copy of it.
Whitehack. I have to give a shoutout to +Brian Isikoff for this book, because he had a copy of it sent to me a couple of months ago now. Based off of the Swords & Wizardry Whitebox rules, Whitehack does the unthinkable...it streamlines those rules. Whitehack is available in two versions the "Standard" edition (which I have), which contains all of the Whitehack rules, and the "Notebook" edition, which contains all of the rules and 192 pages of "notebook" space that you can use to fill in with notes for your campaign, characters or anything else that you might want to use the notebook space for. The notebook edition is a pretty cool idea.
I think that our regular group would enjoy the Whitehack rules, but since we are an online only group, the lack of a PDF version of the rules makes this a hard sell. $28 might not be a lot, but it is a lot to spend on something that we might end up only playing for a few sessions. Honestly, this lack of a PDF was about the only thing that I didn't like about Whitehack.
One thing that others might not like about Whitehack is the fact that there is no art in the book. Just rules. This would be a deal breaker for many, but wasn't as big of a deal for me. The design and layout of the book reminded me of a textbook almost. Keep in mind before making a snap decision that the book is only 64 6x9 pages. There is a lot packed into those pages, however.
Everything that you need to play is in the book. Instead of the standard D&D classes, this game goes with more abstract character classes: The Wise, The Stong and the Deft. These classes are much more archetypal than your standard D&D classes, which means that you can build a lot of concepts that might not easily fit into the standard classes with Whitehack classes. Another concept, which I think was inspired by video games, that was interesting was the idea "rare" character classes. The idea of rare classes is that they aren't available as starting characters, but are "unlocked" if a character dies during a campaign, in case a player would be interested in creating a different sort of character.
Spell effects are similarly abstract, and instead of traditional spell lists you instead create your characters spells on the fly, using their class and descriptors as guides to what the character might be capable of doing.
I like the abstraction in this game. Old D&D was already a fairly abstract game, so you don't loss much in translation when you abstract it further. Whitehack would be a good game for people who are looking for some more modern approaches to the workings of games, while keeping the simplicity and abstraction of old school D&D.
If is definitely worth checking out, along with The Complete Vivimancer. These two books are examples of why we are in such a golden age of gaming right now.
Well, there probably won't be any posts until I arrive at Gen Con (you never know if this would change), and if you are a reader of the blog and attending Gen Con please try to track me down and say hello. Check the link to my Twitter feed at the beginning of this post, and my post about Gen Con from the other day, for the most up to date information about where I may be while at the convention. Tweet Follow @dorkland
Friday, July 24, 2015
Next Wednesday I will be in Indianapolis, IN for Gen Con. My schedule is pretty busy, with interviews and wandering around trying to cover as much as possible for Bleeding Cool and this blog.
This is me ---->
Gen Con 2015 will return to the Indiana Convention Center next week. THE BEST FOUR DAYS IN GAMING™ will be held July 30 - August 2, 2015 and badge sales to date indicate it will be the biggest and best year yet.
Gen Con is the original, longest running, and best-attended gaming convention in the world. For over 47 years, Gen Con has been setting the trend and breaking records. There is so much to do, see, and experience at Gen Con between the exhibits, special events, and more than 14,000 events taking place over four days. Attendees meet movers and the shakers in the gaming industry, have the opportunity to play the newest games, and get a sneak peek at the latest developments.
Gen Con 2015 will be open to the public Thursday, July 30, through Sunday, August 2, 2015. Thursday through Saturday, the Exhibit Hall is open 10 am to 6 pm and Sunday from 10 am to 4 pm. 24-hour gaming takes place at the convention center and at area hotels during the four-day event.
Everyone attending Gen Con must purchase a badge. A badge allows the individual entrance to the show, admittance to the Exhibit Hall, Art Show, Anime events, seminars and any events happening in the public areas that do not require an event ticket.
- Badges are available now at www.gencon.com with Will Call pick-up on-site.
- 4-Day Badge Price: $90
- Single-Day Badge Price: $55
- Sunday, August 2 is Family Fun Day! $35 for a family of four
Updated Headlines for Gen Con 2015
- Badge Sales at a Record Pace – Last year, Gen Con reached a four-day turnstile attendance of more than 184,500 and a unique attendance of more than 56,000. This year, badges are moving at an even faster rate.
- Sun King Brewing’s Drink On and Prosper Tapping Party - Indy’s own Sun King Brewing is releasing their 4th official Gen Con beer, Drink On and Prosper, a golden ale, for the first time in commemorative collectors cans. An open-to-the-public tapping party will serve as the official kick-off to Gen Con 2015, beginning on Wednesday, July 29 at 5 pm on Georgia St.
- Marina Sirtis, Media Guest of Honor – Gen Con, in partnership with Co-Sponsor Mayfair Games, has announced Marina Sirtis as a Media Guest of Honor for the 2015 convention. Marina Sirtis gained worldwide acclaim as the sexy, cerebral Deanna Troi in the Star Trek: The Next Generation TV series and related films. She will participate in autograph signings on Saturday and Sunday, August 1-2.
- Summer Glau, Media Guest of Honor – Gen Con is excited to announce its second Media Guest of Honor for 2015, Summer Glau. Summer is an actress best known for her iconic characters River Tam in Joss Whedon’s TV series Firefly and the feature film, Serenity, and Cameron Philips in Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles. Ms. Glau will participate in autograph signings and photo ops Friday, July 31 and Saturday, August 1.
- Mayfair Games Charity Event – Gen Con Co-Sponsor Mayfair Games will host an event supporting Official 2015 Charity, The Julian Center, Friday July 31 on Georgia St. Participants will play their newly released game “Star Trek: Five Year Mission”. Media Guest of Honor Marina Sirtis, of Star Trek: The Next Generation fame, will also be making an appearance. Last year, Mayfair Games raised more than $20,000 for Gleaners Food Bank of Indiana.
- Paizo Publishing at Gen Con – Voted “Best Publisher” for five consecutive years during Gen Con’s ENnies award ceremony for excellence in tabletop roleplay gaming, Co-Sponsor Paizo is returning this year bigger and better than ever before.
- 30th Annual Costume Contest - Numerous awards will be bestowed across a wide swath of categories during the 30th Annual Costume Contest beginning Saturday at 3:30 pm.
- New Cosplay Events and Guest of Honor - New for 2015 is the inaugural Crossplay Contest, one part pageant, one part RuPaul’s Drag Race, and all parts fun. Author of Cosplay in America, Ejen Chuang, will also be joining the festivities as Gen Con’s first Cosplay Guest of Honor and taking pictures at several photoshoots throughout the convention.
- Author’s Avenue and Writer’s Symposium - This year’s Author Guest of Honor Terry Brooks, creator of the Shannara series and author of the recently released novel, The Darkling Child, leads a group of prolific and high-profile authors in the convention’s annual Writer’s Symposium. Those interested in autographs, informative writing seminars, and exposure to literary luminaries should attend. Brooks’ Shannara series is coming to MTV soon.
- Art Show and Artist’s Avenue - Acclaimed fantasy illustrator Tony DiTerlizzi has been selected as Gen Con 2015 Artist Guest of Honor. More than 80 artists will take part in the annual Art Show, and prints and original artwork will be available for purchase from many participating artists in the Exhibit Hall.
- Film Festival and Anime - Interested in seeing a show at the show? More than 130 films and digital projects will compete across multiple categories at the Gen Con Annual Film Festival. Anime enthusiasts can also choose from nearly 100 free screenings, talks, and workshops.
- Inaugural Puppet Program Guest of Honor - Gen Con is thrilled to welcome Trace Beaulieu as the inaugural Puppet Program Guest of Honor. Trace is a comic actor, writer, producer and goofball best known for his work on the award winning, cult hit show Mystery Science Theater 3000. In addition to writing, occasionally directing, and designing sets and props, Trace performed the puppet character “Crow T. Robot.”
Family Fun at Gen Con 2015
- Family Fun Pavilion - This is an area dedicated to family gaming for all ages. It includes exhibits, demonstrations, activities and much more!
- Training Grounds - is the place to introduce kids to the gaming world and all its possibilities. The Training Grounds are most appropriate for kid’s ages 4-12 years old and located in the Family Fun Pavilion.
- Family Fun Day, Sunday August 2 - There will be events specifically designed for family involvement, including face-painting and learn-to-play events, along with discounted badges.
This came over the wires the other day:
This is the end of an era for a lot of gamers, because I have known a lot of people who have played or used GURPS Traveller over the years. Having seen the licensing belt for Traveller tightened as Traveller 5 was in the works, I hope that this doesn't mean that the only version of Traveller that gamers will be left with will be the mega-tome of Traveller 5. I would hate to see Mongoose Traveller go away, only because it is the only version of Traveller now that appeals to me, and it appears to be about the only thing by Mongoose actually still available in print.Since 1998, Steve Jackson Games has published GURPS Traveller source books under license from Far Future Enterprises. Traveller, a science fiction game of merchant princes and mercenaries, has long been a favorite of gamers everywhere. On December 31, 2015, Steve Jackson Games’ Traveller license will expire, and will not be renewed.What does this mean for GURPS Traveller fans? This: You should go directly to Warehouse 23 (warehouse23.com) and purchase any downloadable GURPS Traveller books you’re missing; they’ll no longer be available after 2015. Items in print will be available until the current stock runs out."All good things must come to an end," said Loren Wiseman, GURPS Traveller Line Editor for Steve Jackson Games. "After over 50 products, not counting T-shirts and the like, working with Traveller has been more fun than human beings should be allowed to have, and we at Steve Jackson Games would like to thank Marc Miller and everyone else connected with Traveller for allowing us to play with our version of the game for 17 years. Thanks!"
Traveller fans are used to versions of the game coming and going. I hope that this won't be the last version of the game that we see licensed for another system as well. That would be a shame. Tweet Follow @dorkland
Monday, July 20, 2015
Updated 7/24/15: Here is a downloadable PDF of the schedule for the food trucks. It tells you times and locations for the trucks, which you can use in conjunction with the info below. I'm storing it on my Google Drive for now.
Over at the MadFoamingCat's Fumbled Creations blog, +Sarah Landis has put together a list of the food trucks at Gen Con this year, and a tentative schedule of who will be where.
You can find her post here.
This is a resource that Gen Con really falls down on. Last year's schedule was a mess, and I spent a couple of days tracking down websites for menus and Twitter and Facebook for more direct contacts with the various trucks appearing. This seems like something that Gen Con should be doing, rather than bloggers. I am glad that Sarah put this together, because I was stalling doing this myself because it was such a pain in the ass last year.
Thank you, Sarah, for doing what Gen Con should have already provided to everyone.
PS: I haven't compared her list to the one that I compiled last year, but if there are any duplicate trucks that I tracked down the Twitter/Facebook accounts for you can find my old post here.
I'm looking forward to seeing everyone at Gen Con in a week and a half. Tweet Follow @dorkland
Friday, July 17, 2015
Dorkland: What is it about the Cthulhu Mythos, the works of Lovecraft and associated authors that make them so enduring?
Sandy Petersen: He evokes cosmic terror - a different type of fear, and a new style of writing. No one before him even tried.
DL: What is it about the Call of Cthulhu game that makes people so passionate about it?
Sandy: I think much of the appeal is that it is contrarian by nature. In other RPGs, you seek out combat. In CoC, you avoid it. In other RPGs, you adventure. In CoC, you solve mysteriies. In other RPGs, you acquire powerful weapons and items. In CoC, you find musty old books that are dangerous even to read. In other RPGs, your character gets stronger over time. In CoC, your character gets less stable and in many ways weaker. I have no problem with the other RPGs - but there are plenty of them around. If you want something different, then CoC is it - it does almost everything "wrong" from a normal RPG and I think that's what its fans love.
DL: When you first designed Call of Cthulhu, did you think that there would still be so much interest in it after all of this time?
Sandy: When I designed Call of Cthulhu almost no one even knew who Lovecraft was. I thought it would an obscure cult game that would sell maybe a thousand copies and vanish.
DL: What would you like to see for the future of Call of Cthulhu 7th edition?
Sandy: I want to see an awesome campaign with scenarios set in the Cthulhu Wars world, after the Great Old Ones have returned!
DL: What non-Chaosium games are interesting you currently?
Sandy: Well most obviously my own games, from Petersen Games - Gods War, Cthulhu Wars, Orcs Must Die! the boardgame, Dicenstein, and Theomachy. But probably you meant what games that I didn't work on, in which case I just played Terra Mystica and had a great time. Tweet Follow @dorkland
Monday, July 06, 2015
Dynamite proudly announces that fan-favorite author Warren Ellis will be writing the James Bond 007 ongoing comic book series, the first to appear in over two decades. James Bond 007 is scheduled for release in November 2015, featuring interior artwork by Jason Masters (Batman Incorporated, Guardians of the Galaxy).It sounds like it will be some cool work:
The first six-issue story arc in the James Bond 007 comic book series will be entitled VARGR. James Bond returns to London after a mission of vengeance in Helsinki, to take up the workload of a fallen 00 Section agent... but something evil is moving through the back streets of the city, and sinister plans are being laid for Bond in Berlin.This sort of "hard man" character isn't anything new for Ellis, who helped to popularize it in super-hero comics with characters like The Midnighter, and in his non-super-hero books like Red, Desolation Jones or Jack Cross. The James Bond DNA, whether Ellis realizes it or not, has seeped into so many of his creation that it only seems natural that he would take a swing at writing the character itself.
We'll see what happens this fall when the first issue hits the stand, but it sounds interesting and doing James Bond is definitely smack in the middle of Ellis' comfort zone as a creator. Tweet Follow @dorkland
Sunday, July 05, 2015
An email about Eventbrite's study of convention attendees showed up in my inbox the other day. The statistics are interesting, I think:
Any emphasis in the quotes is mine. Yes, the conventions that they did these studies at appear to just be comic-related, but from attendance at Gen Con and other conventions, that my observations hold these statistics across the board. Gaming conventions may not be as close in these numbers, but they really seem to be getting there.Gender and the Single's SceneThe demographics of fandom convention attendees are now trending equally male and female. In Eventbrite's survey of the fan community, respondents were 48.9% female, 48.7% male, and 2.4% non-binary/other. Although the split is close to 50-50 male-female for attendees, the survey found differences in male and female attendee's interests. Women reported they were most interested in comic and genre-based media (59%), while men said they were most interested in comics/graphic novels (64%).Looking at the single's scene, 50% of romantically available attendees are men, while 47% are women. Additionally, the survey found that single men are more likely to go to a fan event alone (29%) than single women (18%).
It is fashionable for other "fandoms" to bash cosplayers, but I think that one thing that gamers and genre fans need to understand is that cosplayers have always been a part of the fandom. If you go back to some of the photos from conventions as far back as the 50s and 60s you'll find a lot of people cosplaying their favorite characters.Con Attendees Spend BigThe majority of survey respondents (59%) said they spend between $100 and $500 at fan events they attend, not including basic costs such as tickets, food and parking. Overall, the most popular purchases that fans "always or usually" buy at conventions across all groups surveyed are original art and prints (37%), toys, figures and collectable (28%), fashion merchandise and t-shirts, and collectible comics and graphic novels (both at 27%). And, despite anecdotal reports to the contrary, only around 20% of people reported that they regularly purchase celebrity autographs at conventions. With nearly 38% reporting they "never buy" these items, they ranked among the least popular purchases according to the survey data.Survey findings also revealed that 10% of con-goers reach into their wallets and shell out $500 or more at fan events over and above logistical costs and more men than women (66% vs. 33%) spend $500 or more at fan events.Cosplayers Pay to PlaySerious cosplayers are repeat attendees; 64% of them attend three or more fan events per year and 27% attend five or more fan events per year. When they attend, seven in ten will spend $100 or more at the event. Age and gender are also factors; the majority of cosplayers (60%) are between the ages of 23 and 39 and female (65%).Primary fan interests for cosplayers are unique to that group as well. The top three interests reported by cosplayers were anime/manga (29%), comic and genre-based media/entertainment (21%), and science fiction and/or fantasy (18%).
We really need to get over this and realize that the thing that all of us wanted has happened: geekery has mainstream appeal and greater numbers of people want to be involved in these fandoms. We need to remember that there aren't rules to being a "true" or "proper" fan of something. You just are a fan. Tweet Follow @dorkland