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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Harebrained Schemes Returns To Kickstarter...With Battletech

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.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

I Hear You Like Maps, So I Put Maps In Your Maps


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





Remember to assign a mapper to your adventuring group while and Gen Con, and may the Odds Always Be In Your Favor!

Quick Looks At Whitehack And The Complete Vivimancer

After today, the blog will go radio silent for a couple of days while I deal with the last minute stuff that comes with Gen Con happening on Wednesday. Be sure to follow my Twitter for up to date information and scintillating pictures of airports while I travel from Tampa to Indianapolis on Wednesday. Also, +Ethel B will be posting to the blog during Gen Con as well, so watch for what she will have to say.

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.

I am thinking of giving Labyrinth Lord a try for the next fantasy game. The group has played a lot of Swords & Wizardry, and I have nothing against that game however sometimes you need a palate cleanser. I ordered a couple of books from various sources to use as resource for when such a game  arises. The first book to arrive was Gavin Norman's 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.

Next up is 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.

Friday, July 24, 2015

#GenCon And Me


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 ---->

There's a god chance that I will look as grumpy as I do in that photo, because that is pretty much my natural state. When I'm not in my appointments, I'll be wandering the Exhibit hall and locales near the convention center. If you see me, approach slowly (so as to not startle myself or onlookers) and identify yourself quickly, and possibly loudly (the hearing isn't what it once was). I am relatively friendly.

I arrive Wednesday evening, and I will be leaving mid-day on Sunday, which means that I won't be visiting the convention on Sunday.

Since the priority posting will be to Bleeding Cool, be sure to check there daily for updates on Gen Con from me.

If you want semi-live information from me throughout the weekend, I would suggest adding me on Twitter and/or Instagram. Instagram posts will likely happen after con hours. If we don't know each other on G+ (allowing you to ping me via the Hangouts app), messaging me via Twitter will probably be the quickest way to reach me during the con. I will probably be posting to Twitter a lot, so if you don't want to see a lot of posts, that might not be the place to follow me.

I will try to respond to social media as promptly as possible, but if I am in the middle of something, that will take precedence.

Hopefully I will see you at Gen Con.

Gen Con Information And Details


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.

To Attend

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.

Badge Information

  • 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. 

The End Of An Era For GURPS Traveller


This came over the wires the other day:
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!"
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.

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.

Monday, July 20, 2015

#GenCon Food Truck Listings


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.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Sandy Petersen Mini Interview

I had a chance to ask a couple of questions of Sandy Petersen, of Petersen Games's Cthulhu Wars and Call of Cthulhu fame. I'll be seeing him at Gen Con in a couple of weeks, so I will try to talk with him some more there. Mostly I asked him a few questions about Call of Cthulhu, past and present.


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.

Monday, July 06, 2015

James Bond Returns To Comics With Writing From Warren Ellis

This popped up in the email inbox this morning.
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.

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Study Into Convention Attendee Statistics


An email about Eventbrite's study of convention attendees showed up in my inbox the other day. The statistics are interesting, I think:
Gender and the Single's Scene
The 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%).
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.
Con Attendees Spend Big
The 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 Play
Serious 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%).
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.

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.

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Zak Smith's A Red & Pleasant Land


Gaming needs to be weird.

We have enough derivative, sanitized content for our games. The family friendly, all-ages part is covered. We need more singular visions and high concepts, and less creation by committee. This is where Zak Smith's A Red & Pleasant Land comes in.

On the surface this supplement for your D&Desque game of your choice is Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures In Wonderland meets Bram Stoker's Dracula, where they get into a sort of first fight, but the complexity in this book is much more than that. There are vampires, and there are weird creatures from beyond the Looking Glass, but there is much more to this book than a rehash of Dungeonland or Ravenloft.

Our group just came off of a six month campaign using this book as one of the inspirations for our game. Instead of D&D or a retroclone, however, we used the classic Marvel Super-Heroes game that TSR put out in the 80s. One of the central conceits of A Red & Pleasant Land (RPL) is that there is a "slow war" going on between vampiric factions in what may, or may not, have once been Wonderland. I interpreted that in our game as the vampires being sort of "unstuck from time," and not experiencing it in the same way that others (in our case the player characters) experienced it. In fact each powerful vampire that they encountered experienced time differently from the others.


Good RPG supplements/adventures are toolkits, whether they are intended to be or not. You should be able to slice and dice a well done RPG supplement and repurpose it to do what you want. RPL passes that test with flying colors. In fact, for many people it is probably for the best that they do dig into the book and make the pieces fit with the sort of games that they run, and the sort of world that they want to create. There is a lot of weirdness in this book, and it isn't all in easy to digest chunks. Smith assumes that there will be some level of remixing done by a GM and presents his material in such a way to make changing the text accessible. He may not make it easy, but he does provide the tools.

Much like in his more explicitly toolbox book Vornheim, RPL has a lot of random tables that allows for the quick creation of random content on the fly. Since players are notorious for zigging when they should zag, it is good to have some back up that allows you to create things as you go. The Alice character's player in our game got extensive use out of the Random Objects table, when she decided that the Alice would be able to randomly pull things from the pocket of her pinafore apron. It is tools like this that makes a GM's job so much easier at times.

In the book Smith gives you all of the pieces that you need to run the "slow war" of the setting. You have all of the important, powerful NPCs and their various "warring" factions. It is easy to take all of these pieces and repurpose them for the game at hand. Don't want to set your game in a loose, fantasy Eastern Europe? Take all of the factions and drop them into a 1970s New York City instead. Use the Pale King and the Colorless Queen as the overlays for famous people of the era and have them play out their strange, involved intrigues against the backdrop of the 70s nightclub scene instead.

Now, if you're playing a D&D game you really don't have to worry about how you're going to fit the pieces of the book into the puzzle of your game, at least not as dramatically as we did for ours. All of the monsters will fit fairly easily into a campaign, and many of them aren't all that much stranger than a lot of the creatures that you would see in the early days of RPGs.

One of the absolutely biggest selling points for me is the Alice class that I mentioned earlier. It is sort of like a Fighter, and sort of like a Thief (Specialist if you play Lamentations of the Flame Princess), with the wit and mercurial nature of Carroll's signature character rolled into the writeup. I like the random special abilities that the character receives at leveling up, because it fits well into the conceit of Carroll's Alice. And, really, are there many other characters who are as ready for the strangeness of a fantasy RPG campaign as Alice?


A Red & Pleasant Land is as much a mimetic weapon pointed at your campaign, infecting it with rogue ideas and strange, impure thoughts, as it is a game supplement. Putting this setting into your game will change it into something that you may not recognize, and that is a good thing. Instead of the stale old dungeon crawls, explore the castles that can jump and shift when your characters are turned around. Where up can be turned into down without you realizing it. If you want a more "social" campaign in your game, there are the factions of the Red King, The Red Queen, The Colorless Queen and all of their servants and creatures aligned, and unaligned, to explore and interact with. The social structures are given as many rules and details as are the monsters that you can fight in the game.

Definitely check out this book and bring it into your games, either in part or in whole. I think that you are going to like the variety that it brings to your game. A Red & Pleasant Land is one of the best books to hit gaming this year, and it is probably one of the best books for gaming in a very long time. Side by side with Smith's earlier Vornheim and his "redo" of James Raggi's DeathFrost Doom you can get a world of gaming that is outside of the ordinary.

Also, be sure to check it out when voting time for the 2015 ENnies happens.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Help Send Annah And Rey To Gen Con


As anyone who has ever gone to Gen Con, or really any major convention, can tell you it isn't cheap. Travel is expensive. Accommodations are expensive. Food is expensive (we all have to eat). So, +Annah Madriñan and +Reynaldo Madriñan are having a fundraiser to help defray some of the expenses of their trip to Gen Con.

Once, a long time ago now, I put up my first ever guest post on the blog, a post about the Maid RPG from a woman who I met through G+ and had some cool things to say about gaming. That woman was Annah. I'm proud to say that I knew her before she was cool (not that she wasn't really cool then).

+Kiel Chenier of the Dungeons & Donuts blog asked for a little bit of a signal boost to help with this fundraising:
Friend of the blog Annah Madriñan is raising money so she and her husband, Reynaldo Madriñan, can afford to go to GenCon 2015! Annah is one of the official ENNIES judges and has been doing great work as one of their few female judges. 
Please consider donating a few dollars to her GenCon fund. Annah is an important voice for women in tabletop gaming, and Reynaldo is one of the masterminds behind BREAK!!
Donate $1 or more and you’ll be sent Von Bottom’s Hoard, a system agnostic adventure PDF we all collaborated on!
You can check out Kiel's full post with details here.

(Full disclosure: I run my own fundraising campaign for Gen Con, to be found at the right. It is expensive for everyone.)


The adventure is pretty cool, and anyone interested in a short, whimsical dungeon crawl type of adventure with anime tropes will enjoy Von Bottom's Hoard. Styled for the concepts of D&D, there really aren't much in the way of mechanics to this adventure, letting you use it under any system. If, for some reason, you don't want to help these people for the contributions that they've given to gaming through their blogging and their social media posting, then do it for the adventure. Von Bottom's Horde makes for an enjoyable night of adventuring that would be fun for the whole family.

Click the blog link above and get the information to support these guys now. Hit the Trouble Alert, call all the Teen Titans and move like you've never moved before.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The Cypher System Rulebook From Monte Cook Games


The Cypher System Rulebook is coming from Monte Cook Games (or conversely it might have already arrived by the time that you are reading this). With the Cypher System Rulebook, Monte Cook and company have taken the rules that debuted in their highly successful Numenera RPG, and were further refined in the collaboration between Cook and fellow designer Bruce Cordell in The Strange RPG.

Featuring a streamlined "class" based system for character creation, and simple rules that allow for quick and easy play, the Cypher System rules hit a lot of sweet spots for me. Where Numenera was one of my Must Have games last year at Gen Con, the Cypher System Rulebook will be one of the top games of 2015. Hyperbole? Maybe, but I can count on one hand anymore the number of new games out there that make me want to play them just by reading the rules and the Cypher System Rulebook is one of those games. Is it going to revolutionize gaming? No, probably not, but if it motivates others to want to play it in the way that it does me it is going to build one hell of a following.

Character creation is relatively quick and class-based. The quickness comes in that you get a lot of the basics from the class (called character type in the rules), which you then customize to make the character that you want. Special abilities are given to a character at each tier of progression (think character level) which allow you to fine tune the concept of your character and customize them as their story progresses. Unlike a lot of class and level-based RPGs, however, progressing through the tiers isn't going to mean that your character is going to change a great deal during play, but instead moves along the path of their story, allowing it to change them. Cypher System characters are not zero to hero types, starting as fairly proficient characters and becoming moreso as they go.


There is some of the DNA of the third edition of Dungeons & Dragons to be found in the Cypher System, which makes sense since Cook was one of the main architects of that game. I see these rules as a progression of those, changing as the designer's tastes and interests in gaming change over time. Knowing that Cook had been one of the designers of the fifth edition of D&D, along with The Strange RPG co-creator Cordell, it makes me wonder who much of this system could have been the game that we could have gotten if Cook and Wizards of the Coast had not parted ways? I will say this, if some version of these rules had powered D&D 5e, I would probably still be playing that game now.

Old school players and game masters will find this game an interesting one. Like with the D&D 5e rules, there is a current of influence of the older D&D editions that run through the Cypher System Rulebook. The simplified approach to play, and the ease of character creation, show this influence and the underlying rules for Cyphers in the game hark back to a lot of the handling of magic items and treasure in older editions of D&D. Like in older editions, the stats of characters are relatively unchanging, and not directly linked to play, which leaves transient Cyphers to influence and inspire your character to great heights beyond what the character sheet might tell you during play. Like the potions or belts of power of old, Cyphers help to describe the world that you are playing in and also give edges to the characters during play.

Stats are interesting because, while they can show how strong or quick that a character may be, they don't directly impact play. Unlike the more recent editions of D&D, the stats do not directly modify your rolls they instead provide a pool of points that can be spent to give your character situational benefits, or sometimes help to power special abilities. This abstraction is definitely a feature for me, but I can see where it might bother others. In this approach to stats, the abstraction helps to enforce the cinematic nature of characters and play in a way that makes better sense to me than with some other systems out there.

While character types are fairly generic, which is the point since this is a generic game, you can customize characters for genre or setting through Flavors and Descriptors. Flavors are optional rules, they are basically a separate set of tier-based special abilities that can be swapped for abilities in your character's type that makes them more unique and flavorful. For instance you can apply the Combat Flavor to your Speaker (the charisma-based character type) to make a character that is like a battle-oriented bard. You can add the Magic Flavor to your Explorer to make a street-savvy occult investigator for your game. The idea behind flavors is that they open up the possibilities for your characters, making them more of a part of the world which they are exploring and less a generic "cipher." Flavors are also where GM customization comes in. You can create Flavors that are specific to the game's world.

Descriptors are character traits, terms that help describe your character and can give them some additional special abilities. Think of them almost like a feat in the recent D&D editions, but you only take this once, during character creation.


Other than the special ability choices that come with progressing to each tier, there really aren't a lot of choices to make for a Cypher System character. While you pick a couple of new ones from the list of tier abilities each time your character "levels up," that is it. There are no exploding lists of feats or combat options to bog down character creation, or advancement, or to give players a fatigue of choices. Many of these options, like Flavors, don't have to be used...cutting down on the number of choices that are made at each level. Regardless, you still end up with robust and unique characters at each tier of play, and it is still easy enough to customize characters that a group can have two warriors and they look different from each other in substantive ways.

One thing that might trip up some groups is the fact that players make all of the rolls in a Cypher System game. Players make attack rolls when attacking some monster and players make defense rolls when they are in turn attacked. Yes, you probably could change this, but the way that the system is set up makes doing all of this simple enough that it really shouldn't slow down play.

The lack of GM-oriented rolls are made up for by what the Cypher System calls "GM Intrusions." GM intrusions are where the GM can inject excitement into a game. A character accidentally drops their weapon. A monster is where they aren't supposed to be. Something goes wrong and now the characters have to do something about it. Some might see this as making a rule out of the GM "being a dick," but at its heart it is an abstraction of things like wandering monster tables from the older editions of D&D that could bring sudden action, that the players or characters might not really like, into the game. It can be a pacing mechanism to speed up or slow down play, to punctuation quiet with a bit of excitement or terror for the characters.

The GM intrusion is also one of the methods for giving XP in the game. When the GM makes an intrusion on a character, they are offered 2 XP for that. That player must then turn around and give one of those XP to another player at the table. You can give that XP as a reward for being particularly entertaining during the session, or because their character helped yours out when they needed it.

What differentiates a GM intrusion from something like a wandering monster table is that the player can choose to opt out of an intrusion by paying the GM one of their XP instead. This is a compelling sounding mechanic that might be familiar to some gamers.

The Cypher System Rulebook is rounded out with a selection of creatures for various genres. GMs could also fairly easily adapt creatures from Numenera or The Strange to their games as well. There are also explanations of various popular role-playing genres, and how a GM can customize the rules to be used in those genres. At over 400 pages, this isn't a small book by any stretch of the imagination, but it gives you everything that you need for play. This is not a basic game, or the expert rules. This is a self-contained game.

These rules are built upon a solid foundation of the great rules found in Numenera, and then expanded through The Strange and countless hours of play by the designers and fans. The Cypher System Rulebook does not invalidate those earlier games, but builds upon them. There are options, like Flavors, that can be folded back into the rules of the earlier games as well, expanding your options for those games. The Cypher System Rulebook is a great game and if you haven't already tried one of the other versions of the game, you should definitely check this one out. This game will be good for those who may already have a setting in mind, and just want a set of rules that allow them to play in that world. The Cypher System Rulebook is that set of rules. Check it out and see for yourself.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Mythoard! Mythoard! Mythoard!


It takes a little more than saying its name three time to get a Mythoard subscription box, but if you're a tabletop gamer it is something that you should look into. The June box goes out in a matter of hours from this post, so if you want to get in on the goodness, now would be the time to do so.

I admit that I have been sitting on talking about the April and May boxes for a bit, but I will say that I've followed Mythoard and gotten most of the boxes since its January launch. I love the idea of an inexpensive and diverse "box" of gaming related stuff. If I had a complaint, it would be that there is too much of a reliance on "old school" materials for the boxes. The material is great, don't get me wrong, but it will limit the growth of the service.

Just as an aside, if you are a publisher and you would like to get your stuff into the hands of Mythoard subscribers, you should go to the site's contact page for more information. There is a lot of options available in gaming, and inside of the various "sides" of tabletop players sniping at each other we really should look to more cross-pollination and looking at each other's games. There is a lot of interesting stuff to be found in gaming these days, regardless of what style or approach you have to gaming.

Anyway...


The April box had some interesting stuff to it, including a Dungeon World adventure, and an adventure for Pathfinder. Lichfield looks like an interesting adventure, certainly a bit darker than a lot of published adventures...but I am a big fan of dark fantasy, so this is a selling point for me. I also love the Mike Mignola-styled art throughout the adventure. Good stuff. Don't play Dragon World? It shouldn't be too difficult to figure out a conversion to your favorite fantasy RPG. You know how in the older editions of D&D your character would reach a point in their career where they would build/take a stronghold, or their class' equivalent? Well, the idea of For Rent, Lease or Conquest is build around that idea. Built for 7th level Pathfinder adventurers, this module takes an irreverent look at that idea...and how things can go terribly wrong with it.

Lichfield was also an exclusive item for the April box.

The box is then rounded out with an issue of the the Oubliette zine. Inside you'll find some interesting new spells, magic items and monsters for your fantasy games. They're written for Labyrinth Lord, but easily applicable to your favorite fantasy RPG.

The weak spot of the April box would be the old Judges Guild reproductions. Not that these are bad reproductions, or bad adventures, but both of them are for the long out of print Dragonquest RPG. Why is this bad? Well, at least with the explosion of early edition D&D clones, old material from the early editions of those games can find some use. Not so much with Dragonquest, which has no such clones available. I will admit that I was never a fan of the game, even though I still have my mouldering copy put away with my gaming stuff. I think


The May Mythoard box was interesting, and only one ruleset away from having everything that you need to get a roleplaying game going. This box included a set of very pretty Chessex dice (the second that Mythoard has done). Some people swear by Gamescience (and I have a couple of sets of dice by them, too) but for my money Chessex makes some of the besst, and easiest to read, dice on the market. It is really hard to beat Chessex dice.

The White Box Omnibus by James Spahn's Barrel Rider Games is a nice expansion of Matt Finch's basic Swords & Wizardry White Box rules (linked in PDF form in the paragraph above, if you don't already have a copy of the game). This was a distillation of the earliest version of the D&D game, before Thieves were characters and when all hit dice were d6s. I've played this version of the game, in fact I used White Box to introduce a friend to gaming, but in the long term its appeal for me starts to wear thin. I prefer weapons having a range of damage dice, and the classes having different hit dice. I also think that it isn't D&D without a Thief, but that's just me. Regardless, Spahn has put together an interesting selection of new classes, magic items and creatures for White Box that can be easily adapted to your preferred "old school" rules. There are also a couple of adventures and an overview of a setting that can be used to get your campaign going. Both of which are very important for the harried GM without a lot of time.

I will say that I love the Judges Guild reproductions, even the ones for Dragonquest in the previous box, because they provide us with a snapshot of what people were doing in gaming back in the early days, rather than the supposition and speculation that we get from a lot of blogs. The Dungeoneer reproduction issue gives us a peak into what early gamers were thinking, much like reading old issues of Dragon or White Dwarf. For people interesting in getting a real perspective onto the early years of gaming, this is an invaluable resource. Plus! The Dungeoneer has a vampire class that is useable with OD&D or your favorite retroclone. How cool is that?

The rest of the box is rounded out by a one page adventure and some various GMing aids. The Quest Essentials Doors deck from MillieModels is interesting because it gives you some images of various kinds of doors and traps that could be encountered in the dungeon by adventurers and stats them out (for the Pathfinder RPG, but as always, easy enough to convert to your favorite fantasy game).

So here we have it, the April and May boxes from Mythoard. Both have their pros and cons, but both have materials in them that could be of use to gamers and their games. Like I said earlier, I would like to see more publishers support this undertaking with a greater variety of gaming options. Diversity is always a good thing. I recommend that all publishers who read this check out the Mythoard contact information, and find something, print or electronic, that can be used to support this fine service.

Oh, and if you aren't a subscriber yet...you need to check out Mythoard now.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

The Sale of Cthulhu (And Other Fine Chaosium Consumables)


It turns out that Chaosium has a warehouse that is overfilled with books and stuff. To fix this they are having a huge sale that can only benefit you, the gamer. They're getting rid of a lot of their old remaining Eternal Champion stock, among other things.

Forgive all the caps, its copypasta.
THE STARS ARE RIGHT… FOR A BLOW-OUT SALE!
WE’RE HERE TO SELL GAMES, AND CHEW BUBBLEGUM. AND WE’RE ALL OUT OF BUBBLEGUM.
OVER THE YEARS, OUR WAREHOUSE HAS BECOME STUFFED FULL OF MORE CTHULHUY GOODNESS THAN THE MARTENSE MANSION. WE’RE BURSTING AT THE SEAMS AND NEED TO MAKE ROOM FOR THE NEW THINGS COMING IN!
WE’VE DECIDED TO BLOW THE DOORS OFF CTHULHU’S TOMB, AND CLOSE OUT ALL THE “NON-STANDARD” ITEMS IN OUR WAREHOUSE.
SO NOW’S YOUR CHANCE TO GET DEEP DISCOUNTS ON MONOGRAPHS, FANTASY FLIGHT GAMES’ CTHULHU GAMES, NON-ENGLISH LANGUAGE EDITIONS OF OUR GAMES, CDS, MAGAZINES, THE LAUNDRY RPG, MINIATURES AND MUCH MORE!
THUS, WE HAVE 50% OFF THE FOLLOWING: ALL BRP AND CALL OF CTHULHU MONOGRAPHS! NOVELTIES & ACCESSORIES! ALL LICENSED CALL OF CTHULHU PRODUCTS, INCLUDING FANTASY FLIGHT GAMES BOARDGAMES AND MINIATURES, CUBICLE 7 BOOKS, GOLDEN GOBLIN, ARC DREAMS, AND MORE! ALL NON-ENGLISH LANGUAGE BOOKS! NEPHILIM!  (THESE BOOKS WILL NOT BE REPRINTED OR REORDERED ONCE THEY’RE GONE!)
ALSO, WE HAVE 75% OFF ALL THE REMAINING STOCK OF ETERNAL CHAMPION GAMES AND D20 CALL OF CTHULHU GAMEMASTER’S PACKS! (LAST CHANCE!)
PLUS, LOOK FOR SPECIAL BUNDLE PACKS OF ETERNAL CHAMPION AND NEPHILIM BOOKS!
LASTLY, AS AN ADDED INCENTIVE, TAKE 10% OFF EVERYTHING ELSE WE SELL. JUST BECAUSE WE LOVE YOU SO MUCH.
IA! IA! DISCOUNTS FHTAGN!
Read that carefully because the discounts aren't listed (but will be applied in your shopping cart). There is a lot of really good gaming stuff there, so don't miss out.

Chris Gonnerman's Iron Falcon RPG

+Chris Gonnerman is a machine. I think that when Skynet takes over the world he will finally be revealed as the game design arm of the Terminators.

I mean this in a really good way.

Gonnerman's Basic Fantasy RPG, a retroclone (with a few liberties) of the old school D&D B/X rules, is one of the best of the best of the retroclone crowd. It is clear and concise, and in some places it is actually better written than the original material. With Basic Fantasy, Gonnerman has created a functional and playable game that both honors the past and takes it into new directions.

Now, I know that I am a little behind on talking about this new game of his, Iron Falcon, but I'll admit that is because there have been a lot of games for me to read and comment upon over the last few months. Also, I figured that since Iron Falcon is a clone of the original D&D rules that I wouldn't need it because I already had Swords & Wizardry in my toolkit that I wouldn't need another game that covers the same material. Guess what? I was wrong.

Once again Gonnerman knocks a game out of the ballpark. Unlike with Basic Fantasy, where Gonnerman wanted to recreate a version of the game that he was introduced to and prefers to play, Iron Falcon started more as an intellectual exercise. With the existence of Swords & Wizardry, it didn't seem like he felt there was as much of a need for another game that covers this material...however that didn't stop him and boy howdy am I glad that it didn't.

Don't get me wrong, I love Swords & Wizardry. It has been my go-to fantasy game for a few years now (since our online group started up our first game with it), but there are flaws with it. The organization of the book isn't the best. It can be difficult (even after playing for a while) to find certain important tables during play. Iron Falcon doesn't suffer from these issues. One of the halmarks of a Gonnerman game is excellent organization, and with Iron Falcon he does not disappoint on that front.

From a rules perspective, there really isn't a lot of difference between Iron Falcon and Swords & Wizardry. The main difference seems to be that Iron Falcon uses the traditional system of saving throws, rather than Swords & Wizardry's streamlined approach. This is probably more a matter of taste, but I find myself liking the return to the traditional saves more than I thought that I would.

Iron Falcon probably has more magical items than Swords & Wizardry, but for me that is a bonus. I love having magic items in my games more than I like having actual spellcasters. I'm weird that way.

The writing in Iron Falcon is some of the best among those retrocloning old school rules sets. Just like with Basic Fantasy, the writing in Iron Falcon is clear and concise. He goes the extra bit to try to explain confusing and awkward rules, and that makes these rules a solid foundation upon which to build your campaign. There isn't anything new or groundbreaking to be found in these rules, but that's really not the point of them either.

If I had a complaint about Iron Falcon it would be that (unlike the bulk of the Basic Fantasy library) there isn't an editable version of the rules available. Why you gotta hate on those of use who like our house rules, Gonnerman? The lack of this wouldn't keep me from running the game, but if there is a feature request list out there, I would like to put an editable version of the rules onto that list. Hopefully the devoted and prolific community that has gathered around Basic Fantasy will start creating material for this new game as well. I know that I am tempted to do so.

If you're looking for a simple, streamlined fantasy game that gives you everything that you need to play in one source, you should look more closely at Iron Falcon. It may be that I just reach for it the next time I want to run a fantasy game instead of running another game of Swords & Wizardry.

Further Rumor And Speculation About Chaosium Games


Sandy Petersen, of Call of Cthulhu and Cthulhu Wars fame, game an interview to the owner of Yog-Sothoth.com the other day about the changes going on at Chaosium.



It is an interesting interview, I suggest giving it a listen. Some of it lines up with my own blatant and baseless speculation about some of the classic Chaosium lines like Pendragon and Runequest at least being distributed through Chaosium once again. I know that the rights to Runequest and Glorantha have been assigned over to Moon Design (who in turn has been licensing the Runequest name to the Design Mechanism people. But while Runequest is under and excellent stewardship with Design Mechanism, they don't seem to have gotten the penetration into the American marketplace that the game had once upon a time. Would Chaosium distributing Runequest get the game the attention that it once had? Maybe. I think that a lot of the lack of luster that Runequest has had of late is lingering from the Mongoose era. It seems that the once mighty RPG is having difficulty in recovering from the "control" of Mongoose.

This is all still rumor, of course, but I think that it could help not only Chaosium, but the individual game lines as well. Gamers could see the reunion of these lines and their original publisher as the return of a dream team, and it would give a spark to everything. There really is no lose in this situation.

With the resurgence of interest and popularity of "old school" games, there is a lot that Chaosium could do to ride on that wave again. Even a publisher like Flying Buffalo has produced "facsimile editions" of their early editions of Tunnels & Trolls and Monsters! Monsters! for new audiences. Chaosium already publishes Runequest 3e in everything but name with their Basic Fantasy monographs: Basic Gamemaster, Basic Creatures and The Magic Book (unfortunately it doesn't look like the Player's Book is offered through DriveThru/RPGnow). The Magic Book also makes a nice supplement for Magic World and the BRP gold book as well.

Doing a Runequest 2e "facsimile" would probably make for a lot of very happy gamers. I know that I would personally love a copy.

Now, with further rumor-mongoring...

I have heard that there is renewed interest as well in Greg Stafford's other Arthurian role-playing game. For those who may not know, Chaosium once produced a licensed RPG based on the Prince Valiant comic strip, using another stripped down variant of the BRP system (closer to the rules of Pendragon than Runequest, but still built from the same foundations). Obviously they couldn't bring this back as Prince Valiant, but the system is really (I mean really) good for that sort of low/no magic style of fantasy play and would make for a great game even stripped from the previously published setting. It wouldn't even have to be an Arthurian game. Maybe a game in the spirit of Prince Valiant's a-historical approach, you could set the game in the court of Charlemagne and introduce Viking and/or Native American warriors to the mix. Yeah, I know that it sounds like a fan-favorite comic from the 80s (please keep in mind that this part of this post isn't even rumor, it is me saying what I would love to see done with the game).

Could we see a new/old "Courtly" fantasy game from Chaosium? Maybe. Time will tell.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Cosplay Is Not Consent


Convention season is in full swing, and the big cons are just around the corner. And apparently, for some geeks and convention goers, the lesson that you can look at but not touch the people in the costumes is still not being understood. A person dressing up in a costume, no matter how revealing or covering it might be, is not an invitation to touch them.

This past weekend at Atlanta's MomoCon, an anime and gaming convention, a cosplayer not only was repeatedly touched without permission, but the convention organizers and their security staff further harassed the woman and blamed her and her costume for what happened.


What we have here is compounded harassment. This is a major bad on the part of the convention staff. While I wouldn't call them a safe space, a convention should be protecting the safety and well-being of their attendees. Sexual harassment is in any form or shape is not good. I'm not sure who taught these people that it was okay, but it isn't.

How many times are we going to have to say this before it sinks in to the heads of these people? It is never right to touch people in any manner without their consent or approval. Wearing a costume is not consent.

This should also never lead to body shaming or so-called "slut shaming." It doesn't really matter how much skin you think is appropriate, if a person is covered to extent required by local law the rest is moot.  Community standards will also cause this to vary dramatic. I live in Florida, in a beach community, where it isn't unusual to see women in bikinis (or men in swimwear) at grocery stores or gas stations.  I hate the term "slut shaming" because it adds a moral element of "well, your clothing was inappropriate, but we are going to defend it anyway." No, you just defend it.

This is an angry post, because this is something that shouldn't still be going on in an enlightened society. It shouldn't be happening on the streets of our cities, and it shouldn't be happening at conventions. We need to treat each other with the respect that we want to be treated with ourselves.

So, what should you do, when dealing with cosplayers at a convention?

  1. Always ask for permission to take someone's picture. Also make sure that you know a convention's rules for picture taking. Many conventions will have rules that you cannot take a person's picture without asking permission.
  2. If having your picture taken with a cosplayer first ask if you can touch them, and ask them what sort of touch they are comfortable with. Come on, guys, don't just grab their asses or breasts because you think you can. Be as respectful of them at a convention as you would if you were in a restaurant or any other semi-public space. 
  3. Once you know their limits/guidelines, respect them. Don't smile and nod your head in agreement, and then grab them anyway while your friend snaps a picture. This isn't respectful.
If you see harassment of any sort occurring, quickly contact security. If you can't find security, ask the cosplayer if they need help and then help them find security. If see you harassment occurring at a convention you need to make sure that you report it, and don't underestimate the effectiveness of social media.

I know, some will take offense at this post and claim that I am making it just to score points, or (even worse from my view) to get sex. If your world view is so cynical that you see basic human decency as nothing more than currency used to attain sexual favors, I'm not sure that we have anything to talk about. I know that I don't want you reading my blog, if that is how you feel about women and sex.

We need to stop defending this behavior, and we need to call it out when we see it. We need to tell our friends that this is not okay, and harassment is not cool. Hopefully soon enough we won't have the need to keep reminding people of all of this. I'm not going to hold my breath on that.

Friday, May 29, 2015

Lest We Forget...The Goodness of Hulks And Horrors

A couple of years ago, after an ill-fated attempt to run the mess that is Machinations of the Space Princess, and still wanting to give some science fiction role-playing a chance, we switched to Hulks & Horrors for a few sessions for our After Earth campaign. Unfortunately some fluctuations in our group put the kibosh on that game. The one thing that we did enjoy was the system of Hulks & Horrors. This is a great little game that, like so many in our super saturated RPG "market," didn't really gain the foothold that it deserved.

Sadly, there is still a strong "What can I buy now?" element to gaming communities that tend to drive a mentality of "what's next" commercialism. For better or worse, this means that game are bought and then never used before the next wave of games are bought (and not used). I admit that I've never really had a collector's gene (despite all the comics that I own), and the idea of buying things just to collect them, rather than to use them is rather alien to me. My only problem with this whole cycle is that we tend to end up with subpar, or uninspired games that are being produced solely to be put up on a shelf somewhere.

One of the reasons that I liked Hulks & Horrors was because it took the simplicity of a game that I liked (Swords & Wizardry Whitebox) and took out some of the things that I didn't like about that game. As much as I like the simplicity of Whitebox, sooner or later the whole all damage is measured in d6s starts to bother me. Hulks & Horrors isn't derived from Whitebox, so that isn't why I am making the comparison between the two games.  In Hulks & Horrors, Berry went back to the open content of the 3.x SRD and then used them to create his new game, using the paradigms of older editions and an o school style of play.

Part of why Hulks & Horrors succeeded for us was because it was a lot less complicated of a ruleset than Machinations of the Space Princess, in fact Hulks & Horrors succeeded in capturing the old school simplicity that escaped Machinations. Where Machinations added a great deal of unnecessary detail to character creation and combat, Hulks & Horrors kept it simple and made for a much more playable game than Machinations.

Other than the spectacular art from Satine Phoenix, there really wasn't much to Machinations, or to the "Metal Hurlant" atmosphere that it claimed to support. While Hulks & Horrors doesn't claim to support such a style of play, there is also nothing that keeps you from playing this sort of campaign with the game. That is one of the appeals to an old school style of play, the lack of explicit support doesn't mean that you cannot use a game in that style. You can even take Hulks & Horrors sister game (using a variant of the same system), Arcana Rising, and use it to add magic to your science fiction.

From what you get in the game, I think that Hulks & Horrors supports a sort of classic star traveling science fiction with elements of the 40k Universe. You could very easily dial up the 40K-ness of the "setting" of the game with the addition of monsters and some back story.  The existing classes (Pilot, Scientist, Soldier and Psyker) could easily be ramped up to support this. For Judge Dredd fans, you could easily reskin the classes to be departments of the Justice Department and run with it. One of the reasons that I like the Scientist class is because its inspirations are a mashup of Doctor McCoy and the Doctor.

Like many old school inspired games, Hulks & Horrors doesn't have an explicit setting. Instead the ideas of the setting are revealed through the details of the character classes, and through the monsters included. This is what makes games like this so easy to hack. For example, I would say that the one thing that Hulks & Horrors would not do as well out of the box is to support a Star Wars-inspired kind of game. You could add on to it to do that, Jedi-inspired classes are a dime a dozen out there on the internet, and because of the game having the commonality of D&D as the base, conversion is fairly easy.

So, really, this is a lot of words telling you to go back and check out an overlooked game that deserves more love than it receives. I think that it will pay you back with hours of gaming fun, and stories to tell your fellow gamers for years to come.

Friday, May 01, 2015

Go To Hell With The Codex Infernus For Savage Worlds Kickstarter

Update: This Kickstarter was cancelled.

Seriously, go to Hell.

I know, normally Josh would be writing about a Kickstarter, but between his being sick and having finals you ended up with me instead. I'll try to fill his shoes.

Do you remember the time when TSR backpedaled on the infernal in D&D games because they were worried about how the hobby was viewed by outsiders? Yeah, me too. I'm glad that those days are past.

David Jarvis of Gun Metal Games is Kickstarting The Codex Infernus, a guide to Hell and all forms of deviltry for the Savage Worlds game. He has also assembled a pretty good team, including Rob Wieland, Eddy Webb, Eloy Lasanta and Monica Valentinelli. A group of very capable and creative people.

The nice thing about this supplement is that it isn't tied to a specific genre or setting. The collection of new races, Edge, Backgrounds, magic items and rules for things like exorcism, demonic pacts, possession and other infernally fun things will spice up your Savage Worlds games regardless of what they are.

And anyone who is a Rifts fan will see that this supplement will be of great use when the upcoming Rifts Savage Worlds game setting is released. But, really, who doesn't want more demons for their role-playing games?

Jarvis has also assembled a team of adventure writers to round out the supplement. John Dunn is creating an adventure around demonic time travel. Gareth Skarka is crafting an ode to the great supernatural comics of the 1970s (a perennial favorite of mine). Savage Worlds creator Shane Hensley is working on an adventure based around the Shroud of Turin. These three are just the tip of the adventure iceberg as well.

There are still a couple of weeks to go (at the time of this post) and the campaign has not yet reached the goal of $21,000. That is a lot of money, but this is going to be a quality product in the end...packed with new rules, exciting adventure, stunning art and high production values. Get in on The Codex Infernus while the getting is good.

Friday, April 17, 2015

That Big Swords And Wizardry News

There was a quiet announcement made today regarding the next "edition" of the Swords & Wizardry retroclone created by +Matt Finch, and published in its "Complete" version by Frog God Games.

For those who don't know, Swords & Wizardry is a clone of the earliest edition of the Dungeons & Dragons rules, before there were Basic or Expert versions and long before there was an Advanced version. Published as a boxed set, this edition of Dungeons & Dragons was three booklets...Volume 1: Men & Magic, Volume 2: Monsters & Treasure, and Volume 3: Underworld & Wilderness Adventures. There were also a handful of supplements for these rules as well: Greyhawk, Blackmoor, Eldritch Wizardry, Gods, Demi-Gods & Heroes, and Swords & Spells.

Swords & Wizardry comes in three versions: Whitebox, Core and Complete. Whitebox covers the initial three booklets of the D&D rules. Core uses the first three supplements and parts of Greyhawk. Core uses the three booklets and the stuff from Greyhawk and Blackmoor. [I'm sure that I got one of those wrong and someone will correct me.]

So, this summer there will be a Kickstarter campaign to raise the money for a new printing/edition of Swords & Wizardry. What makes this newsworthy is that the fact that the graphic design, layout and art direction for this new edition will be an all-woman team of artists and designers lead by +Stacy Dellorfano, the founder of the online gaming convention +ConTessa. The art for the new edition will also feature new iconic characters that are female and people of color. In a way, the old school is stepping into the "new" school and with this edition of Swords & Wizardry we see Frog God Games bucking the perception that OSR/old school gamers are all conservative and reactionary individuals, interested only in continuing the status quo. Good on them for that.

This couldn't have come at a better time. It was only a few months ago that the latest edition of D&D was under fire from conservative elements of the tabletop gaming community for "insufferable PC propagandizing" for putting language saying that it was okay to play gay or transgendered characters in the game (not that anyone really needed permission for that anyway). I have said before, and I say again, that I don't like elements like these to try to claim any form of gaming of their own, and I am more than happy to see tabletop gaming dragged into the 21st century (even if some of the people are kicking and screaming).

There will be more to come on this...