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.