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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Standing Rock Sioux Tribe Donation Fund


Normally, this is something that I would post to social media (because of its immediacy and short duration), but I was having trouble with getting the links to work...so off to the blog.

+Jerry Grayson of Khepera Publishing has put together a gigantic bundle of gaming material, crossing back and forth between indie and traditional games, in order to raise money to help the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in their fight against the Dakota Access pipeline. From the bundle page:
You can support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in its fight to protect its waters and sacred places by purchasing this RPG bundle. All proceeds go to Standing Rock Sioux Tribe - Dakota Access Pipeline Donation Fund 
http://standingrock.org/
You get full games like +Meguey Baker's 1001 Nights, the English translation of the Spanish retroclone Adventures in the East Mark, Age of Arthur by +Paul Mitchener and +Graham Spearing, Reign by +Greg StolzeAMP Year One by +Eloy Lasanta, Grayson's Atlantis: The Second Age and Mythic D6 and others.

You also get support for White StarLabyrinth Lord and Adventurer, Conqueror, King and other games.

You get fiction from Evil Hat Productions and other publishers.

You get all of this for $40 from RPGNow.

There is so much good in this bundle, and $40 for all that you get is a steal.



Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Warhammer 40K Comic From Titan Comics


After a thousand years, violent warp storms have receded from the Calaphrax Cluster, and an ancient battlefront in the war against Chaos has again been opened to the universe.

Now, multiple forces risk complete immolation to attack the sector – drawn by the lure of ancient relics, lost knowledge, and powerful megaweapons, buried for aeons. Chief among those forces, the fearsome Dark Angels, emerald-armored Space Marines, shock-troopers of the Emperor’s Imperium and indomitable defenders of humanity. But Chaos stirs in the warp, and the Dark Angels will not be alone for long!

Based in the universe of the ever-popular miniatures game, novels, and videogames, this new ongoing series is perfect for both the hardcore Warhammer 40,000 fan and the complete newcomer!





Hitting stores on October 12, 2016, the new Warhammer 40,000 comic sees writer George Mann (Dark Souls, Warhammer Black Library, Eighth Doctor) and artists Tazio Bettin (Independence Day, Sally of the Wasteland) and Enrica Eren Angiolini, take the series to new heights with the first adventure, entitled “Will of Iron”. The story follows Baltus, a Dark Angel newly-elevated to the rank of Space Marine, as he is baptized on the bloody battlefield and uncovers the price his Chapter has paid for victory! Secrets as old as the Horus Heresy are on the verge of being revealed...






Titan Comics has released a variant cover that will be specific to comic shops that are taking part in Local Comic Shop Day. Check the event's website to see if your local store is participating.




Monday, September 12, 2016

Lucky 13: The Thirteenth Anniversary Of The Dorkland! Blog


Typically I just let the anniversaries of the blog come and go. For the 10th Anniversary I launched the short-lived Geeky Voices Carry vidcast/podcast. It was short-lived because of scheduling, and because doing that sort of thing was a lot of work.

I just thought that I would commemorate things with a quick post for the 13th Anniversary of the blog.

I started the Dorkland! Blog in September of 2003 because there was a lot going on in my life at the time and the blog gave me a place to talk about things that were unrelated to all of that, and give me a little bit of mental breathing space that I might not have had otherwise. The blog has always had a general "geeky" focus to it because I felt that would give me the most space to talk about whatever it is that I want to talk about. I drift around between comics, gaming and music mostly, because these are the topics that most interest me.

I've never really been a constant poster. My idea has always been to post when something grabs my attention, and I want to talk about it, rather than because I think that I have to have X number of posts in a day, or a week. Honestly, I think that is a big factor as to why I have kept the blog going for so long.

A long time ago, around 2002, I found a book at the library by an author named Rebecca Blood. It had the weird title of The Weblog Manual, and it talked about something that I had never heard of before: blogging. The book is still in print (even available for the Kindle these days). Even though most of the information is rooted in those early days of blogging, it can still provide a valuable insight into where blogging came from, and what people thought that it would become.

When I started the Dorkland! Blog I was still living in Cleveland, trying to work out the path of a new "adventure" that I had started upon. Most of what I do here is opinion writing, my reviews and talk about trends and happening in geeky things, but that is because when I was studying journalism in high school and college, opinion writing was always my preferred style of writing. It could be more personal, and a better reflection not just of ourselves, but of the world that we wanted to see outside of our windows.

I still feel that way. Guest writers and semi-regular posters have come and gone throughout the last thirteen years, but each of them were picked because they fit into what I thought was the point of view of this blog.I think that is important, having a point of view, when doing something like a blog. Some use blogging to grab attention for themselves. Some use blogging because they are angry about something. For me, blogging and the Dorkland! Blog has always been about a desire to share the things that I love, and to talk about why I love them. However, just because I love something, it doesn't mean that I am blind to its faults or shortcomings. A lot of the problems that I have with geeky communities, online and off, come from the fact that I love these things and think that we can all do so much better than we are doing. Because I love these things, and I want to share them with as many people as possible, I don't want hate in our shared spaces: hate of race, hate of gender, hate of sexuality. Like Walt Whitman said in the epic American poem of Song of Myself: "Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself, I am large, I contain multitudes."

The geeky communities contain multitudes, a teeming mass of people defined not as much by the similarities but by their differences. It is these contradictions that give the communities their richness, because there is so much that we would not see or experience without those contradictions.

There is still a lot of work to be done within many aspects of these communities. I think that the first step is to realize that we aren't all the same, outside maybe of the "geeky" things that we like to consume. Even those things aren't all the same, nor are they consumed in the same way. We need to better see the contradictions within ourselves, and each other, so that we can find the commonalities that can shape communities, rather than doing it the other way around.

One of the things that has changed the most in the years that I have been a blogger has been blogging itself. You can see this by looking at the earliest posts on this blog. Then called a "weblog," the idea was mostly to keep a log of websites that you regularly visited so that others who shared the same interests as you could find sites and articles of interest to you. Search engines existed, but they were no where near as refined or ubiquitous as they are today, so often that meant that you relied on discovering others with your interests to guide your way through the internet.

Slowly, but surely, blogging developed into something akin to journalism, when in the right hands, and that was alright with me because of my background in journalism. But it shows that blogging isn't something static, and how you approach it should change with time. Let's see what happens in the next thirteen years.



Thursday, September 08, 2016

The Second Alternity Design Blog

Sasquatch Game Studio has released their second design blog for their new Alternity game, and this one actually has some meat to it, because they are talking about the core die mechanic for the new game. I think that this will also please a lot of fans of the original Alternity.

We do have to remember that they're still early in the design process, so this can all be subject to change.

The original Alternity used a roll under a target number mechanic. They used a "step die" mechanic to modify the rolls, where the total of other dice would be added or subtracted, according to the difficulty.

The new game is going to use an interesting flip of that idea. You have a target number. Attribute and skill ranks are subtracted from that number, making that the new target number. Then you roll a d20, add or subtract the step die depending on how it is modifying things, and if your roll is greater than the target number you succeed at the action.

While the thinking may take a little getting used to in play, it does seem like an easy enough way to handle resolution.This is going to have a degree of success (or failure) as well, and I think that this will add verisimilitude to the rolling. I am all for adding critical success and failure to game resolution because I think it can make the rolls more meaningful. I know that bidding mechanics can do a similar thing, but I think that you lose some of the uncertainty, and degree of success can add a thrill to a particularly well-done die roll.

So, we're starting to get an idea of how the mechanics will shape up for the new Alternity game, and I think that is good. Since the nature of this new game precludes using the old mechanics that means we need to see how the new game will work. I'd like to see some character creation information up next, hopefully a sample with enough meat to it that we'll get an idea of what characters will look like, and be capable of, in the new game.

It looks like science fiction/fantasy gaming is getting its turn at a resurgence, between the return of Alternity, EN Publishing's role-playing game N.E.W. and Paizo's science fantasy game Starfinder. Since science fiction is one of the genres that I enjoy most, I am excited to see that my tastes are getting some love from RPG publishers.


Saturday, September 03, 2016

Flashback: Empire of Satanis By Darrick Dishaw

A lot of people probably don't remember the indie RPG known as Empire of Satanis. There are some pretty good reasons for that, but I thought that on this long American holiday weekend that we could take a look at the "classic" game by Darrick Dishaw.

My capsule review is that Empire of Satanis is a jejune attempt at horror role-playing that draws upon the overused tropes of 80s and 90s horror movies that you have probably already seen used (often more intelligently) in a multitude of other games.

He might be better remembered as the guy who "cursed" RPGNet after he received some bad reviews for his game on the site. The "curse" is probably of better quality than some of the writing in Empire of Satanis, which is kind of disappointing. The curse is kind of funny and sad, and definitely worth repeating here:
Hail Satan! Lord of the Pit! King of Hell! Ruler of the Earth! Master of the Abyss! I open the unknowable doorways and touch the violet flame, drink the revitalizing blood and break the skulls of those who cross Him or His brothers. I call upon the most vicious demons of Hell to intervene. From this night forth, you will be plagued by self-doubt, weakness, failure, hopelessness, hunger, pain, loss, insecurity, and envy. Nothing can save you and no one will come to your aid. All who have befriended you will now desert you in your hour of need. 
In the name of the Ancient Ones, I curse those who tear down Empire of Satanis! May Satan have no mercy whatsoever upon your miserable souls. 
Hail Satan! 
So it is done! 
Darrick Dishaw 
However, it does help to demonstrate the mishmash of conflicting influences that went into the game, not to mention how the author seems to blur the lines between fiction and reality. Empire of Satanis is presented as a metatextual attempt at creating a religion that draws upon Satanism and the fictional worlds of H.P. Lovecraft. We will, of course, overlook the obvious inconsistency of using the writings of an avowed atheist as the basis for a religion.

This review looks at the revised and expanded version of the game from 2011.

The presentation isn't much to look at. It looks as though the PDF was made from a Microsoft Word file with minimal formatting and no art. This is DIY RPG at its most basic. The image above is apparently the front cover, but it isn't included in the PDF.

The ideas of this game: demonic forces powered by corruption, Satanic Hell dimensions and progressing through acts of evil are nothing new in RPGs. But games like the horror classic Kult and writers like Rafael Chandler have handled these themes in much more intelligent and entertaining manners.

With Empire of Satanis we get a regurgitation of imagery stolen from movies like Hellraiser.

The presentation of the material moves between first and third person. I would assume that this is an attempt at immersion into the setting of the game. Perhaps it could work with a more skilled hand, as it has with the many other games that have dipped into this overdrawn well of inspiration.

The game outlines a number of demonic races that can be the basis of player characters, as well as some very, very brief ideas on how they react to each other. There are some interesting ideas to be found in this section of the game, but the brevity with which they are handled makes them hard to utilize within the game.

Creatures that you will encounter aren't given writeups, however. Most of the pieces of the setting are only given a page or two of description at most. The information isn't going to be enough to be useful in running a game without a great deal of work on the part of the GM.

Mechanically, the game uses a simple d6-based mechanic. There is an interesting idea to it because, while you roll a certain number of six sided dice each time, you don't add them together. Instead, you just take the highest roll on all of the dice. This is the "success number" for your roll. If it beats the target number of the task being resolved, the character succeeds at that task. Rolls of a six are what is commonly known as an exploding die. Each six is rerolled, until you get something other than a six. Add all of those together for the "success number."

On the surface, this mechanic is simple and it seems like a good way to handle things. But, the problem is that there aren't any modifiers to rolls that will significantly impact the resolution checks. This means that, without an exploding die action, characters will never be able to succeed at tasks more difficult than the highest number on the six-siders. Ironically, this means that a character can't succeed at an average (target number of 7) difficulty task or higher. That sounds like it could be a problem for characters.

There are interesting mechanical ideas that fall flat because the implementation of them haven't been thought out by the designer.

The character creation rules are jumbled. Things that should be advantages, or special abilities, for characters are instead set up as skills. This means that a character's inborn ability to see in the "secret darkness of the universe" will as often as not fail. That kind of sucks for a character.

Now, the "indieness" of the game comes in the "story alteration" mechanic. Again, it is a good idea spoiled by a mechanical implementation that was not thought out by the designer. The player gets to "declare a basic idea" of what will happen, and then they roll a single d6. On a six, the player's idea occurs in the game. This is a popular idea that you see in a lot of indie games anymore. There is a sort of sacrifice that is built into the game, where you can spend points of the character's Social Standing attribute, or Hit Points, to modify the story alteration roll. These expenditures can change the chances from 1 in 6 to 3 in 6.

Magic is freeform in the game (which probably doesn't come as a surprise to anyone). Damage is easy, you pick a difficulty for your spell, and that is how much damage it does. Of course, due to what I talked about earlier, your character isn't going to be able to get an Average difficulty success or better.

Basically, Empire of Satanis is a role-playing game like so many that has a lot more enthusiasm than merit, rending the game to be practically unplayable by gaming groups. The background could be of use with a gaming system that works, and it wouldn't take anymore work to get the setting material to work in that setting than it would to use it with the "system" presented in this book.

The book is also peppered with enough Thomas Ligotti quotes that he should get a cut of the profits.

Check out the links provided at the top of this post. The PDF is freely available at Lulu.com. I think that you'll find out that I'm not exaggerating about the lack of quality in this game. Empire of Satanis isn't even FATAL, because at least the awfulness of that game was original. You aren't going to find anything original in Empire of Satanis.

Dishaw is still nipping at the edges of the online RPG scene, these days under the uninspired nom du guerre of Venger Satanis. These days his strategies seem to be built around whipping angry, middle aged white guys into a frenzy over a world that has passed them by. Like a lot of "personalities" in the online RPG community, whipping up anger is easier than having creativity.

I await the flood of minions sealioning this post. I thank you in advance for the traffic to my blog.



Friday, September 02, 2016

Munchkin Grimm Tidings Comes To Walgreens?


Once again the people at Steve Jackson Games kick in a door and take some loot. This time the door that they're kicking in belongs to the retail drugstore chain Walgreens. Their latest Munckin game, Grimm Tidings, will be available exclusively at your friendly neighborhood Walgreens drugstore.



After getting their games into mass market chains like Wal-Mart and Target, as well as bookstores like Barnes & Noble, the company is looking to a place that you don't see many hobby games in: the drugstore toy aisle. Will it succeed for them and get Munchkin an even bigger market than it already has? Time will tell. But, say what you will about Steve Jackson Games, when many other companies are looking for new markets, they are making them.


Munchkin: Grimm Tidings is due to arrive in Walgreens locations in the next couple of weeks.



Thursday, August 25, 2016

The First Alternity Design Blog

Over at the Sasquatch Game Studio blog we are getting the first design blog post about the upcoming relaunch of the Alternity science fiction RPG. We still don't know a lot yet, unfortunately, because the rules are still being developed, according to the people at Sasquatch Game Studio.

I would really like to have something meaty to analyze in this post, but supposition is all that we have to go on at the moment.

This is one bit that stood out to me:
We also want to preserve some of the mechanical “feel” of the old game (remember rolling all the polyhedrals?) while updating the system from a mid-90s design to a mid-10s design.
One thing that I have talked about in podcasts, on social media discussions, and in other places is my dislike of a design choice that was popular in the 90s but has since diminished in popularity (but hasn't completely gone away). This design choice was the idea that, no matter how competent or ultra-competent a character may be, there was always a non-zero chance of failure in their actions. Sometimes, there was a chance that a highly trained character could have a significant chance of failure when trying to resolve a task. GURPS could be particularly annoying with this.

This doesn't mean that I think that characters should never fail at their actions. Far from it.

The thing is, I do think that characters should fail, I just don't think that spending half an hour, or even five minutes, rolling and re-rolling dice in order to be able to pick a lock, when your character is allegedly one of the great thieves of the world to be fun. I know that some do, and that's great. More power to them. This is why there are different games for different people.

While I don't like the idea of having to keep rolling at what should be a routine act, I do think that there should be some form of failure that makes things more interesting. Does the guard rotation notice the characters because they spent more time than needed in the hallway, due to the complexity of the security systems? Does a bad guy get away because the characters could be where they needed to be, when they needed to be there? Why can't we just add some drama to a situation, rather than having to keep rolling dice over and over?

Well, without more detail we don't know what they mean about "updating the system from a mid-90s design." I doubt that they feel the same way about this "whiff" tendency in mechanics, but you never know. There might even be other things that they don't like about it.

I am interested in finding out more, and I hope that these design journal posts are frequent (and that we start getting to see some hints about actual mechanics soon). Another thing that I don't like about that 90s school of design thought is having all of the information about a game, and how it works, wrapped up in mystery. Everything doesn't need to be wrapped up in an NDA these days. We're talking about tabletop RPGs, not state secrets here. To me, trying to divert talk away from how your game actually works says to me that it either 1) isn't as revolutionary as you want people to think or, 2) it just doesn't work the way that you want us to think it does.

Don't insult us, or our knowledge of games.

Anyway, this last bit isn't directed at Alternity or Sasquatch Game Studio. It is just something from the 90s that lingers, and it bugs me.

So, let's see what the next reveal about Alternity will be.

 

Thursday, August 18, 2016

The High End Of Gaming: Looking At Invisible Sun And The Gods War


It is interesting to watch the relative progresses of the two luxury table top games on Kickstarter right now. We have Glorantha: The Gods War from Petersen Games, and Invisible Sun from Monte Cook Games. I haven't back either, nor do I plan to, and the occasional analysis like this is part of why I don't back many Kickstarters.

This information is from Kicktraq, and current at the time of this post.

The Gods War
Backers: 1103
Average Daily Pledges: $113,012
Average Pledge Per Backer: $307
Funding: $339,037 of $100,000
Dates: Aug 16th -> Sep 15th (30 days)
Project By: Sandy Petersen

Invisible Sun
Backers: 903
Average Daily Pledges: $62,361
Average Pledge Per Backer: $276
Funding: $249,445 of $210,653
Dates: Aug 15th -> Sep 16th (33 days)
Project By: Monte Cook Games

It makes sense that Gods War would be more likely to fund first (it did), because its funding goal was about half that of Invisible Sun. It looked like Invisible Sun would fun on its first day, but it didn't until the second. Gods War funded on its first day.

Both of these games have pretty impressive names behind them. Sandy Petersen pretty much created horror gaming with Call of Cthulhu, not to mention work on seminal computer games like Doom. The Cthulhu Wars Kickstarter raised just over $1.4 million.

Monte Cook was one of the architects of the D20 System, and has worked on properties as diverse as World of Darkness and Call of Cthulhu. With the mega adventure Ptolus, he created what was probably the first successful boutique RPG supplement. The first Monte Cook Games game, Numenera, raised a little over half a million on Kickstarter.

These are both big producers, backed by designers with impressive pedigrees. According to Kicktraq, both are on a path to big numbers, just over $3 million for Gods War and just over $2 million for Invisible Sun. Of course, Kicktraq's projections are often wrong at this early of a point in a campaign.

I think that the important question from all of this is...Does this mean that we're going to see a spike in high end/boutique gaming items? Since both of these projects have funded, and are on track to make a good bit of money I think that is an easy guess that there will be more people will try to Kickstart high end gaming products. Will they succeed is an entirely different question. Sandy Petersen and Monte Cook are fairly unique individuals in tabletop gaming. There probably aren't a lot of creators with the cache to do what they do. I can see a lot of creators trying to create these types of products, I don't see many of them succeeding at it.

A lot of the conversations about Invisible Sun have revolved around the high price, but I think that can be a fallacious conversation. I get that people want games to cost less than $197 to buy into them. We have to get over the idea that all games are supposed to be cheap all the time. The fact that Invisible Sun or Gods War is successful in funding doesn't mean that all of a sudden everyone else is going to be charging more for their games. There is a good chance that there are a lot of publishers aren't paying themselves for the work that they do, or that creators are undercharging their fees because this is a "dream job." It is still a job, and if it is a job it should be what people are living off of.

I think that people forget that their beloved TSR games were made by people who worked every day in an office, and made a weekly paycheck for it. They weren't working for exposure, or to "live the dream."

I think that a big part of why Gods War is doing better than Invisible Sun, at least for now, is because the fans of board games understand better that if you want quality game designs and quality products, you have to pay for them. Meanwhile, role-playing fans still think that books with black & white art was good enough when they started, and is still good enough now. This isn't coming down on games with black and white art. I have games on my shelves with black and white art. I make games with black and white art, because they are what I can afford. I don't think that these games should be the standard for all the other games, however. I am perfectly fine with people like Cook or Petersen making games that I am not going to play. I don't expect my tastes to be catered to by publishers. The great thing about RPGs is the fact that, if games aren't being made that I am interested in play I can make those games myself.

So here we are as a fandom and as a business, standing on the edge of a cliff, with our toes dangling into empty space as we can feel the ground crumbling beneath us. We can decide that it is okay to embrace high end gaming items that we might not necessarily want, because that means that we will get better choices and more diversity overall in what is available. Or we can jump, cursing and screaming that it was somebody else's fault, and they are ruining the hobby, or the industry, or...something. I think it is time for growth.

There are always going to be a wide variety of tabletop games out there. From people who put books together on Lulu or the OneBookSheld sites, to companies like Palladium, to companies like Wizards of the Coast or Pelgrane, all the way up to companies like Petersen Games and Monte Cook Games. The existence of games like Invisible Sun or Night's Black Agents does stop Palladium from making more Rifts books. The existence of the D&D 5E books doesn't stop some guy with a computer, and a gaming group, from crafting a book from his play experiences and putting it up on Lulu with a few pieces of clip art. To think that Invisible Sun is ruining gaming, or making it more expensive, just by its existence is silly. We have a vibrant hobby. We have a vibrant industry. There are more games being produced now than probably ever before. We are getting games of all sorts of genres, playstyles and prices. And that is an awesome thing.

It is interesting to look at the numbers for Invisible Sun and for the Gods War and see where they are going to go. I'm sure, just in the time that it has taken me to write this article, that both of them have jumped in backers and funding levels. Even though neither of the games are for me, I wish them well and hope that both of them make a lot of money for their creators, and that allows them to make a lot of games for people. I hope that people have a lot of fun with those games, out in the world.

We need to stop worrying about what is going to ruin gaming, and spend more time thinking about how we're going to each make it better.



Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Stranger Things


You can do this for yourself here.

Burlesque House Siege Pre-Release


Dungeons & Donuts blogger Kiel Chenier is looking to recoup his Gen Con 2016 expenses. Chenier is selling a pre-release version of the adventure Burlesque House Siege (the adventure that he ran at the con) to make up the money that he spent on badge and housing.
On the outskirts of town is the Maison Derriere, a bawdy burlesque house that's been providing entertainment and thrills to people for decades. You spent the night and had an amazing time...
...only to wake up in the morning to find the building is about to be attacked by a bandit army.
Join a group of dancers and performers in defending their home from waves of bandits and thugs in this LGBT-friendly adventure for tabletop roleplaying games. Compatible with D&D (all editions), Pathfinder, Dungeon World, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Dungeon Crawl Classics, and more.
Kiel's details about the adventure:
This is a "Buystarter Release"
The adventure text and design is complete, but the layout and final art have not been completed. Buying the adventure now gets you the current version of the adventure, and the updated final version when it's released in September, 2016.
The final version will cost $8.99, meaning you save $3.00 by purchasing Burlesque House Siege! early.
Help out a fellow designer and GM.



Friday, August 12, 2016

Q&A With Author Christa Faust About Peepland From Titan Comics


I was able to get to ask a few questions of iconoclastic novelist Christa Faust about her upcoming noir comic Peepland, to come out from Titan Comics on October 12th. Faust burst onto the fiction scene in the late 90s with the horror/crime/erotic novel Control Freak and then with the collaboration with Poppy Brite on Triads. More recently Faust has explored the noir genre with the Angel Dare mysteries for Hard Case Crime and the Butch Fatale, Dyke Dick mysteries.




The Hard Case Crime mystery fiction imprint is expanding into comics with Titan Comics. One of the first releases will be the autobiographical noir series Peepland, co-authored by Faust.


Dorkland! Blog: What is it about noir that makes it interesting for you as a creator?

Christa Faust: I’ve never been a big fan of “whodunnits.” I’m much more interested in the type of stories I call “whydunnits.” There may be a murder or some other form of crime that drives the plot, but the real story is about the characters involved in or affected by that crime, their inner struggles and the ways in which they come unraveled under pressure. I’ve also never been interested in saintly, flawless heroes and dastardly, irredeemable villains. Noir lets you explore those ambiguous, overlapping gray areas that exist inside of everyone.

DLB: What is it about noir that gives it a lasting appeal to audiences?

CF: I love to read noir for a lot of the same reasons I love to write it. We see our own flaws and foibles reflected in those kinds of gray-shaded characters. We’re living in dark and uncertain times and, for a lot of readers, stories full of darkness and uncertainty feel more authentic and relatable.

DLB: Does noir work better in a "historical" or contemporary milieu?

CF: I don’t see it as an either/or thing, because I like it both ways. The theme of ordinary, flawed characters who get mixed up in criminal endeavors, make bad decisions and get in over their heads is one that has an appeal no matter what the setting. I do think there’s an unfortunate perception that noir all is about fedoras and shadows and seamed stockings and that really needs to be debunked. See, there’s nothing wrong with those things, in fact I’m a huge fan of classic mid-century noir, but those things are ultimately just set dressing. You can write noir in which everybody wears fedoras or tricorn hats or trucker hats, but what matters is what’s going on underneath those hats.


DLB: What were some of the autobiographical elements to Peepland?

CF: I grew up in Hell’s Kitchen on 45th street and 9th avenue, just west of Times Square. I worked in the peep booths back in the late 80s and I always wanted to write about those days because I’d never seen that environment portrayed in a way that accurately reflected my own experience. The character of Roxy is a lot like me at that age, but more than that, Peepland is a love letter to the gritty, sleazy and long gone city that raised me and made me who I am today.

DLB: What would have been the best and worse parts to working a "peep show" booth?

CF: The best part was all the quirky characters and fascinating stories. By the time I left to start working full time as a professional Dominatrix in 1990, I had collected enough inspiration to write a hundred books. The worst part was being subjected to insipid pop music for hours on end. Also, I’m a little claustrophobic so long sessions stuck inside that tiny booth were a bit of a drag.


DLB: What does the voice of a female protagonist bring to noir?

CF: The female characters in so much noir fiction, film or comics exist primarily to arouse lust, require rescue or fuel vengeance on the part of the male protagonists. Always the Femme Fatale or the Lost Angel, but either way we never got to hear her side of the story. I think giving noir a female voice helps to reinvigorate the genre and ultimately broadens the audience. I’m always looking to find ways to appeal both to women who think they don’t like noir and men who think they don’t like female protagonists. I like to lure readers out of their comfort zones, make them question everything, and see the world through a different set of eyes.

DLB: What about Peepland would appeal to comic readers? What would appeal to fans of noir?

CF: I’m a newbie in the comic world, and Peepland is my first comic project, so I don’t really have enough experience yet to say with any kind of authority what does or doesn’t appeal to comic readers. I will say that it’s a very visual story that relies heavily on the evocation of its vintage setting and I hope that Andrea Camerini’s gritty, realistic depiction of the New York City streets where I grew up will appeal to comic fans. And noir fans like me are all about the story, so I know this story is right up their dark alley.


DLB: What part of Peepland are you most interested in seeing the readers react to?

CF: The setting, no doubt. So many young people have only ever known the gentrified, outdoor mall version of Times Square, so I really want to share my own personal memories and experiences with them. I also hope to hear from New Yorkers my own age who will remember and appreciate all the little details, references and in-jokes from that era.

DLB: What challenges are there to telling a story through a comic book that you don't have in a novel?

CF: All the usual stuff, like learning how to think in panels instead of scenes and trying to find ways to translate my vision onto the page in collaboration with an artist, but hardest part for me personally was the dialog. I love listening to people talk and I pick up on regional accents and verbal quirks like a parrot. As a novelist, dialog is my superpower. But I learned pretty quick that you can’t have long, nuanced conversations in comics. One character can say one thing, and then the other can say one thing and the first can maybe say one more very short thing back, but that’s it. You can’t fit a zillion word balloons into one panel and you can’t have panel after panel of talking heads. You need to get the point across in as few words as possible and then move on.

DLB: How different was your process for working with a collaborator?

CF: Of course it was different but in this case, it was absolutely essential. I didn’t have the first clue how to write a comic script before this project and my co-author Gary Phillips (The Rinse, Cowboys) is an old pro. He’s the crafty veteran while I’m the mouthy, impulsive rookie. Plus, a lot of his work deals with the same themes that I wanted to explore in Peepland, such as corruption and gentrification. I just knew he’d be the perfect tag team partner and by working together, we wound up with a much better story than either one of us could have created alone.

DLB: What is next on the agenda?

CF: I’m currently working on the third Angel Dare novel. It’s called The Get Off and is set in the world of rodeo bullfighters. I spent two years traveling around with those guys and getting to know their daily grind. It was a lot like visiting another planet for this New York City girl. When (some days it feels more like if!) I get that one in the can, I’m wide open to take on something new and different. Guess we’ll see…


Times Square, 1986: the home of New York’s red light district where strip clubs, porno theatres and petty crime prevails. 

When a chance encounter for Peepbooth worker Roxy Bell leads to the brutal murder of a public access pornographer, the erotic performer and her punk rock ex-partner Nick Zero soon find themselves under fire from criminals, cops, and the city elite, as they begin to untangle a complex web of corruption leading right to city hall.

Like The Naked City, there are eight million stories in The Deuce. This is one of them.

Be sure to pick up your copy of the first issue of Peepland by Christa Faust and Gary Phillips at your friendly local comic store brought to us by the Hard Case Crime comics from Titan Comics on October 12, 2016.



Tuesday, August 09, 2016

The Strange Approach For Fate Accelerated


This is another rough sketch of a Fate Accelerated rule addition, this time a new Strange approach. Most people who know me know that I am a huge fan of early/pre DC/Vertigo comics like Peter Milligan's Shade The Changing Man and Grant Morrison's  Doom Patrol. I like them for their unadulterated strangeness and how they challenged the preconceived notions of what comic book stories could do. As a gamer they could be frustrating to try to bring over into a tabletop RPG because of their very openendedness. (Yes, probably not a word.) This post is basically a slight polish on some notes that I made recently.


After reading the second volume of the COPRA trades over the weekend, getting at characters with this openness starting running through my head again. I've been in a Fate Accelerated headspace lately, because of some professional projects, and that it is my favored version of the rules. What I came up with is a new approach to handle strange and surreal instances.

A big part of the reason why I like Fate Accelerated so much is because of the approaches. Because Fate gets away from the standardized idea of using attributes in role-playing games, and Fate Accelerated takes that a step further with approaches getting rid of skills, it frees you up as a player and GM to focus on the end result of what you what characters to do, rather than the mechanics of how that happens. For me, that is a great thing, and why I lean so heavily on the Accelerated rules.

This isn't freeform, because you still have a mechanical justification to hang things on within the game, the parameters of those mechanics are just loose. That looseness allows some of the more surreal bits to leak into your games. This can lead to a bit more work on the part of both the player and the GM. The player has to be more descriptive in what they are doing. Where "I forcefully overcome the steel door and break it down" is fine in a "mundane" occurrence during a game, it doesn't fit as well for the types of games that we're talking about here. For example: "I strangely overcome the steel door by bypassing its reality through sidestepping it by passing into Grey Plane of Despair and reimagining myself on the other side of it."

Easy, yes? Well, with some practice it can be.


So, let's outline the new approach:
Strange: A strange action is something out of the ordinary, even in worlds with magic and people with super-powers. It is about doing something that side-steps reality, or the basic laws of nature. Tears of blood from statues, rains of fish and other inexplicable happenings can be the result of strange actions.
Not every game will allow strange actions, and those that do should use them in dramatically important ways. A strange action is something that provokes hindbrain reactions in those who witness them, because it is rewriting primal and fundamental rules of the universe. A strange action is causing something that should not happen to happen.

Whenever you take a strange action, the outcome should never be mundane. When you attempt to strangely overcome a reinforced metal door you don't just "phase" through it, you open a portal into the Realm of Metal Hungry Spirits, allowing a stream of starving Necrosprites through to devour the metals of the door. When you strangely attack, you shunt opponents through a tear in your sleeve that transports them to a demiplane of Misery that erodes their will and destroys their mind.

Strange actions aren't going to be for all players, so don't require that a rank be put in that approach. Do not let a player get away with using a strange action mundanely. Put a situational modifier of -2 on attempts to take a strange action without doing something strange (and do not allow a Fate point to offset that modifier). There should be consequences of failure to try to take a strange action without doing something strange. Trying to create a "normal" energy blast as a strange attack would instead manifest as a stream of fiery dolls hitting the target. Part of the challenge of this approach is that, regardless of what the character intends to do, the outcome is something weird.

There should be an aspect, preferably the character's high concept, that gives the permission for strange actions. Otherwise a character's strange approach can never be more than +0. Your character can attempt strange actions, but they have no innate ability to do so.

This post is just a starting point on suggesting how you can bring strange actions into your Fate Accelerated games. The destination is up to you.



Sunday, July 31, 2016

Fate Accelerated Approaches For Pulp Heroic Characters


A while ago on Facebook I talked about wanting a Fate Accelerated hack for playing the Hanna Barbera Action Heroes: characters like Space Ghost, The Herculoids, Jonny Quest. Pretty much all the people in the header image for this post. I think that the two would make for a great fit, particularly if you rework the super-powers rules from Venture City for use in this.

I still think that it would be a good idea, but I never got any further than making a rough draft of some different approaches to use in a game like this. Some of these are riffs off of the existing approaches, but I think that they reinforce genre better than the generic approaches of the existing Fate Accelerated rules.

When would you use these approaches? They come in handy in any sort of classic Fate Accelerated super-hero or pulp game. These approaches could be swapped out in a Young Centurions game, if you wanted to give your characters a pulpier feel than the baseline rules.

Inquisitive: You have a questioning personality that explores the world around you. You value the rational, and seek answers to the unexplained, but you are willing to accept the facts and truths that the universe reveals to you. There are those who think that you ask too many questions, but they likely have too many secrets.

Daring: You have the strength of your convictions to propel you into challenging and unusual situations. One part courage and one part belief in yourself and your friends and allies. You have the sense of will and purpose that some see as reckless, while others see it as decisive.

Endure: Whether it is because of moxie or stamina, you persevere in physical situations where others might flinch. You push yourself to your physical limits, either to compete some physical task or when the risks are high and there are physical dangers to overcome.

Noble: You do the right thing and help those who need helping, or who cannot help themselves. Standing up and refusing to move, when faced with evil people, is really your only choice. Pain and sacrifice are sometimes your only reward, but you know that doing the right thing is the only option.

Deliberate: You like to think about your actions before you take them. Sometimes people take this as moving slowly, but you want to figure out the consequences of an action before you take it. You just want to be careful, and not rush in headfirst.

Quiet: Sometimes, people just forget that you are there. Not every action has to be loud and flashy, in fact there are times when not being noticed is a good thing. Whether you're fast or slow about, quiet is good. Getting your contributions overlooked is always a potential outcome, but you're more interested in the greater good than you are with glory.

Optimistic: You see the best in people and situations, and assume that, by coming together, people can overcome the obstacles that they face. You have faith that people will rise to the level of their optimism and beat adversity. Some, more cynical, individuals think that your are putting on a show, but this is who you are.

Some approaches will have more utility than others, but that same can be said for the baseline approaches as well. These won't be suitable for a lot of games, but for the ones that they will be suitable, you will find your characters having a flavor and feel more in line with the sort of game that you are playing than you might find with the baseline approaches.

There are seven approaches here, rather than the six of baseline Fate Accelerated, my recommendation is to give them a third +3 (Fair) approach.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Pathfinder Worldscape: A Fantasy Crossover of Epic Proportions


Here's the important piece of news for Paizo Pathfinder fans:

Bonus Content Includes Official Game Statistics, Allowing Fan-Favorite Characters Red Sonja, John Carter, and More to Join the Pathfinder RPG Experience

Here's what the press release has to say:
"Pathfinder: Worldscape teams up the Pathfinder heroes with the adventure fiction legends that inspired fantasy roleplaying games in the first place," says series writer and Pathfinder publisher/co-creator Erik Mona. "From Robert E. Howard's Red Sonja to Edgar Rice Burroughs's John Carter, Tars Tarkas, and Tarzan, to Frank Frazetta's lost-world hero Thun'da, Pathfinder: Worldscape presents a sword-and-sorcery super-team unlike anything we've seen before. The series brings all of these heroes - and many of their darkest villains - to a mysterious dimension of warriors and wizards that allows us to explore the origins and impact of some of fantasy's most influential characters."
"Erik Mona is the perfect choice to combine these worlds, as not only is he a Pathfinder expert, but he's a pulp and comic book fan of the highest order. Add in Jonathan Lau - one of our very best - and you've got a cross-over that's going defy all expectations," says Joseph Rybandt, Executive Editor.
"Dynamite's ongoing partnership with Erik Mona and the team at Paizo Publishing has produced epic fantasy stories for comics fans and gamers alike," says Dynamite CEO and publisher, Nick Barrucci. "Comics fans have come to expect the best in crossovers from us, and with Erik's help, we are going to tell a tale of swords-and-sorcery unlike anything on stands today!"
The Worldscape beckons in a tale written by Erik Mona and illustrated by Jonathan Lau (Kevin Smith's Bionic Man). The first issue features covers by Reilly Brown and Ben Caldwell, with a special subscription variant by Sean Izaakse that serves as a homage to the fan-favorite cover of Crisis on Infinite Earths #7. An Ultra-Limited variant edition by Tom Mandrake will also be available.
"If the first issue's swordfight extravaganza is an indication of the visuals we should expect from the entire series, then Pathfinder: Worldscape will more than prove to be the ambitious action fantasy that I'd craved drawing for a long, long time," says artist Jonathan Lau. "Without dragging pages of talking heads, Erik moves the narrative along based on the action, truly showing how dynamic combat comics should be written. With so many different and illustrious characters (like Tarzan and Red Sonja) in one storyline, the work itself motivates me better than any late night energy drink on the drawing table!"





Thursday, July 14, 2016

No Maps For These Territories


Recently +Philip Reed of Steve Jackson Games posted a link on Facebook to the Wikipedia page for a William Gibson extended interview/documentary called No Map For These Territories. Which, thankfully, is available on YouTube.


I had never seen this documentary before, but it is such an artifact of the late 80s/early 90s (despite being made in 1999) Cyberpunk scene that brought us such awesome things as Mondo 2000 and Boing Boing! that I had to share it. I don't think that it gives much in the way of new insight in Gibson, or his early work, but it is good to also hear Bruce Sterling and Jack Womack (personally one of my favorite 2nd wave Cyberpunk authors...if you haven't read him you need to fix that) talking about how Gibson impacted the Science Fiction genre.

If you weren't around when Neuromancer exploded onto Science Fiction in the mid-80s, you might want to watch this just to get an idea of why it was important for its time. This documentary is very much an artifact of its time period, just like Gibson's early writing can be, and while it does get a bit pretentious for its own sake at time I still think that it is worth seeing. I am surprised that I hadn't seen it before now.

HARD CRIME Comes To Titan Comics.

If you're a fan of hard boiled crime fiction (and I know that I am), you are probably already familiar with Hard Case Crime, an imprint of Titan Books. This publishing imprint specializes in the best new and vintage hard boiled crime fiction being published today. Hard Case Crime has stuff from Max Allen Collins, Robert B. Parker, Lester Dent, Ed McBain, Erle Stanley Gardner and Krista Faust. Among others.

I always know that when I see that yellow logo on a book's spine I am going to get a quality book, and I probably have a dozen novels from the imprint in my library.

In October, Hard Case Crime is moving to the graphic novel format, with the first two of their new crime comics.

Debuting in stores on October 5, Triggerman is an operatic Prohibition era mini-series, written by Walter Hill, director of cult 70s New York City gangland smash The Warriors, and Matz with illustrations by trusted collaborator Jef (Body and Soul). In the mean streets of Chicago, a convict is thrown headfirst into a life of bloodshed and bullets to save the girl he left behind...

Hitting stores the following week, on October 12, is Peepland – a semi-autobiographical neo-noir mini-series with a punk edge set in the seedy Times Square peep booths of 1980s New York City. Written by award-winning crime novelist and former peep show employee Christa Faust (Money Shot, Nightmare on Elm Street) with Gary Phillips (The Underbelly, The Rinse) and art by rising star Andrea Camerini (Il Troio).



Get your noir fix this fall as Hard Case Crime comes to a comic store near you. I know what I am going to be looking for this October.


Tuesday, May 31, 2016

More Copyright Protection For Game Mechanics?


I've seen a blog post from an Intellectual Property lawyer who specializes in video and board games being passed around my social media circles recently, and I think that it is something that needs to be looked at.

Keep in mind that I am not a lawyer, so don't take anything that I talk about as any sort of legal advice. Find someone who specializes in intellectual property law and get their two cents first.

The way that copyright and game rules intersected in the past was basically along these lines: you can copyright the exact expression of the rules, but not the underlying ideas of the rules. If you re-expressed the rules with your own wording, you were free of infringement. There were a few restrictions on that, like saying that mathematical expressions used to determine parts of your rules could be copyrighted, which lead people to finding new math that was close enough to the old math for government work.

This is what lead us to games like Mongoose's version of the Runequest game, and large swaths of Old School Renaissance clones of early editions of Dungeons & Dragons.

The case that looks to have changed this was between two board games, one of which effectively cloned parts of the mechanics of the other game (you can find more detail at the link in the first paragraph, I'll let the expert do the real explaining of this issue). The first game's publisher sued the second game's publisher for infringement and eventually won.

According to Zachary Strebeck, the lawyer who originally blogged about this, the suing publisher's case was based on an earlier precedence that "the plot and gameplay progression of something like The Legend of Zelda would most likely be protectable." However the court did not feel that the allegedly infringing game fit that definition.
The court points out that “Unlike a book or movie plot, the rules and procedures, including the winning conditions, that make up a card-game system of play do not themselves produce the artistic or literary content that is the hallmark of protectable expression.” They note that past game copyright victories were won by parties based on infringement of visual appearance or other protectable elements. Pac-man’s gameplay, they recall, was not considered protectable back in 1982.
Given these rules and precedent, the court looked at the issue in the case – that of the similarity between “the roles and characters and their interactions” in the two games. Ziko argued that these roles and interactions were no different than other rules and mechanics in the game, and therefore were unprotectable. DaVinci, on the other hand, argued that those roles and interactions were protected, using precedent from the Triple Town case.
 The court distinguished this case from the Triple Town case, though. In Triple Town, that court analogized the gameplay hierarchy in Triple Town to the plot of a movie. In doing so, they imbued it with copyright protection.
The "Triple Town Case" refers to a 2012 case between EA and Zynga overly game apps Triple Town and Yeti Town. One of the stipulations in that case made by the court was that "the object hierarchy coupled with the depiction of the field of play comprise a setting and theme that is similar to Triple Town’s. A snowfield is not so different from a meadow, bears and yetis are both wild creatures, and the construction of a 'plain' is not plausibly similar to the construction of a 'patch.'"

Where things get interesting for the cloning communities in tabletop RPGs is in this analysis of the case:
The assessment of each game’s UI gets to the heart of the EA-Zynga dispute.  Like Yeti Town, Zynga allegedly copied the basic gameplay from EA and then put its own lightly modified UI elements on top of that gameplay.  Indeed, as alleged by EA, Zynga probably did less to modify its UI than Yeti Town did.  The Triple Town ruling suggests that Zynga probably can’t score a quick win.
The two ended up settling because a precedence setting win would have ended up having long term ramifications in a business where "borrowing" from other games is such a fundamental part of game design.

Like I said at the beginning, I'm not a lawyer and I'm not going to attempt to try to explain this complicated material. I suggest looking at the information and thinking what would happen if there were a change of the people in power at Wizards of the Coast, and they decided that they didn't like the cloning of their systems.

Material used directly from the OGLs would still be usable, but what about the "extrapolations" to make the OGL material play more like older systems? What about designers who make "diceless" RPGs by re-expressing the old rules with their new language? In what ways could the assumptions of copyright law change for them dramatically?


Monday, May 23, 2016

The Trouble With Tabletop Gaming Is...


We have trolls. Horrible, terrible amounts of sad little people who are looking for the validation of their sad and tired little squeaks of anger and outrage. They're "fighting" against a world that has moved and left them behind in the dust. The think that their only hope now is to shout long and loud enough to drown out other voices, those voices that truly represent the world of today, and of tomorrow.

These trolls spout racist, sexist and homophobic diatribes under the the auspice of free speech. Which is fine, they are absolutely right that they have the right to say what they want. The problem is that having the right to say whatever you want, and being protected from the consequences of what you say, are two entirely different things. Freedom to speak your mind also doesn't mean that the rest of the world is required to listen to your tiny, squeaking voices.

We need to stop giving up the public spaces of the internet, because that is exactly what those trolls want. They want people on the outside, people who might be interested in the various hobbies that fall under the umbrella of Tabletop Gaming, to think that they are the only voices, the ones who are in charge. This is a lie that is perpetuated by good people keeping quiet, so only the sour grapes, the squeaking voices of those choking on the dust of the Modern World are the voices that are being heard.

This needs to stop.

Don't Feed The Trolls. In a way, this is right. Engaging with the trolls, the tiny-armed dinosaurs with arms waving to protect themselves from the approaching comet, does no good. They aren't interested in discussion, they want to derail and make sure that the conversations are about them rather than the topics that they don't want discussion about. Make sure that in places like Twitter, Facebook, Google+ and other social media sites you talk about the harassment of anyone being wrong. Don't talk to the trolls, but let everyone else know that there are other voices, rational voices that aren't coming from places of fear and anger.

Of course, this will mean that harassment and the squeaking voices of the trolls will be directed at you, as they attempt to use their techniques to shout down opposition. Block or mute and move on. Trying to talk to them is pointless, because they aren't interested in conversation, just hearing their shrill, squeaky voices.

These people are all big, bad and tough online, with their fear-based bullying, but they really don't have any power over any of us. They don't even seem to think that they have any power over their own gaming tables, since they insist upon the narrative that someone is trying to take away their games. If they don't have power over themselves, why should we assume that they have power over others?

The squeaky-voiced trolls can't even win initiative in a combat. All that they can do is react to what others are saying and doing. These are not powerful people, these are sad and fearful people who don't know how to handle a world that will no longer excuse their hatreds.

Don't Read The Comments. This is what has allowed the squeaky-voiced trolls to take over so many websites and forums. Just like above, the point isn't to engage the squeaky but to point out to others that their voices, their hate and fear is not what defines our hobbies.

We Need To Look At Both Sides Of This. No, we actually don't. There aren't two sides to these discussions. Supporting racism is not a side. Supporting homophobia is not a side. Supporting sexism is not a side. Supporting transgender harassment is not a side. These are not sides, they are bigotry pure and simple. If being against bigotry is wrong, I don't ever want to be right.

We need to stand with the victims of these fear-based harassments and let the ineffectual attacks of the squeaky-voiced trolls bounce off of us. Together, we have the power. All that they have is fear and ineffectual anger.

Update 5/23/2016: Kudos to Chaosium Publishing (publishers of fine games like Runequest and Call of Cthulhu), who have published an anti-harassment policy and Code of Conduct for their organized play. They site my EN World piece on the harassment of women in gaming as a reason for the policy.

Written while eating Jelly Belly Superfruit jelly beans, because pipes are gross.


Monday, March 14, 2016

Fanboy Expo Experiences And Talk


Fanboy Expo is a series of pop culture conventions in Florida and Tennessee. I've never attended one of their conventions (Lakeland is a bit out of the way for me to go to a show) but I have been asked by my brother Jason Helton to share his experiences at the most recent show in Florida.

I don't often talk about my brother, expect to mention him in passing when we attend conventions together. He is a life long fan of comics, professional wrestling and other of those things that we have started to lump under the umbrella of "pop culture." He travels around the Florida area attending conventions, so that he can meet the people who make the comics that he has enjoyed, and the people who do other forms of his favorite entertainment.

I asked Jason to write about his experiences at the convention, after negative talk was removed from the Fanboy Expo Facebook page.

This past weekend, he went to his first (and last) Fanboy Expo.
I attended my first and last Fanboy Expo on Saturday, March 12, 2016 in Lakeland, Florida.
First the positives of my experience: their website was accurate about the guests who canceled as of the night before, about separate lines for methods of payment, and the site map being given out at the ticket window.
The negatives I experienced: There was an $8.00 parking fee to the facility that is nowhere on the Fanboy Expo website.  When I mentioned to the cashier it got me a response of “I didn’t know either.”  
One comic guest was Tom Nguyen, an artist who has worked on books from DC Comics like Batman, Green Lantern and the JLA.  When giving a site map at the time of ticket purchase it showed where his table was to be located, but there was no table at the location, or anyplace else on the convention floor.  I asked a badged staffer and that staffer responded with, “Oh, he is our photographer for our photo ops.  Let me go see something.”  The staffer went to room where a photo op was being done.  The staffer came back saying Tom will be doing a photo op for at least 45 minutes and would sign after that.  At no place on the Fanboy Expo website did they mention any of this.  There was no mention of it at all at the Expo site.
I asked at an information booth to complain to someone.
I spoke with a person named David.  When I complained about the parking fee and availability of Tom, he did not respond the parking, and to say that Tom was there as a staff photographer. David then apologized that some older guests were taking longer on photo ops than expected.  David said he would get my items signed and even ask for a sketch to be done for me but I would still have to wait until the current op was done.  When I stated I didn’t want to wait my response from David was,” It is what it is.”   I then countered with why this information was not mentioned on the website or onsite and nothing.  I said I would not come back to a Fanboy Expo and David saluted me and said there was nothing else to say and walked away from me.
I put two posts about my experiences on the Fanboy Expo Facebook page, and both were removed within 30 minutes of the posts.
After Jason spoke to me about this on Saturday afternoon, I reached out to a few people that I know in the local comics scene and asked them for their thoughts on the Fanboy Expo shows.

"Disorganized" came up more than once. Advertising was not adequate for the convention, and attendance for the show was proportional to that.

The show is branded as a comic convention, but the obvious emphasis (as you could notice from Jason's experience above) was on the celebrity guests. Even this emphasis was not well-handled, as I received reports of attendees that were upset by the cancellation of former professional wrestler Ric Flair.

I was told that sales for vendors were not great, and that the arrangement of areas (like the Artist Alley) was cramped and badly planned out.

As so-called geek culture rises in popularity in this country, there are going to be people trying to cash in on that. Comic-Con International in San Diego makes a lot of people a lot of money, and people see that, and want to be the next big convention. However, running a good convention takes a lot more than wanting one, or even "being a fan." It takes skill in organization, skill in marketing and a desire to build a community around your event. Without that community, all that is left is shilling.

I know that the Florida convention scene is exploding. There are more conventions within a few hours drive of where I live than there ever have been. There are conventions in Orlando, Tampa, Miami and Lakeland. There are good conventions that thrive, building a strong community and local infrastructure that get people excited about being a part of things, rather than just consuming. I have said before that my favorite local convention is the Tampa Bay Comic-Con. They do a lot of things right, and they have the constant growth to prove that. Conventions try to muscle their way into an area (I'm looking at you Wizard World Orlando) and others seem to collapse under the wright of their own size and mismanagement. It seems that even a buy out from a larger convention company can help them out, or keep them from losing the faith of vendors or their own staff.

Comic and Pop Culture/Geek Culture conventions are going to make a lot of people a lot of money, before the bad conventions start to burn people out. These are the things that we need to think about when we support a local (or even national) convention. Do they (the convention) support the local fan community? Do they support the creators that come as guests? If the answer to either of these is no, then it isn't a good convention.

Obviously, there are a lot more factors that can go into the decision of whether or not a show is good or bad, but these are easy, and they are fundamental. There is more to "treating a guest well" than providing a well-stocked green room, or providing a hotel room. Time is money, as they say, and if the time of the guests isn't treated as being important by making sure that their attendance is well-promoted and well-attended, and that people are spending money, then that convention is not fulfilling their promise to that guest.

Convention guests are a two-way street. It is important to a convention that they get good guests, because this means (in theory) that they can draw more foot traffic. This increased foot traffic should, in theory, mean that the guests are getting more attention, and making some money.

I'm not saying that a convention owes it to guests that they show a profit. The guests have to work at this as well. Just being invited to a show does not insure financial success, and the optimal way for this is for everyone to work together to make the show and the guests successful. If just isn't something that we see happening a lot.

Now, as someone who likes going to conventions I want a thriving local convention scene. I want conventions to succeed. That takes work, and it isn't always something that we see.