Sunday, December 16, 2007

Dahara Developed - What to Do?

So I find myself at a bit of a crossroads with Dahara. It's my campaign world, and for some time I've wanted to really develop the world into something that could be published. As it sits right now, the world is in D&D 3.0 stats. With the coming of 4.0, I really don't have much of a desire to convert all that, as I'm not incredibly stoked about 4th Edition right now, and I don't know if I will ever be, to be honest.

I'm reading the Savage World rules, and really loves those, but I'm not real sure of the licensing rules for that system to allow such publishing. Something worth looking into.

Of course, there is always the option of simply writing up the world as generic and letting it sit out there.

I know for sure that I will likely write up some adventures in Dahara and set them out to here to be used. That is coming for certain.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Playtest Report

In short, it went pretty well. Sat down via Skype with Adam, Dan & Luke for the test. We'd tested the rules before, but this was a more formalized test if you will. The rules themselves seem pretty sound, and easy to use. Tier 1 of Skies of Glass seems is indeed shaping up as promised: A fast system without a lot of detail that allows the players to get going without the rules getting in the way.

Some areas of concern? Remembering to use "clicks." Clicks are basically a measure of success in the game, and using them in combat is very important. Now, it may have been all of our unfamiliarity with the new rules, but we forgot to use clicks as they happened. It's a sound concept, it'll just take some remembering on my part in the future.

My only other concern, rules-wise, is the Barter Value system. It's coming along, but there were some applications that I'm wondering how they will work when implemented.

I think the biggest problem I had with the playtest was the venue. It was my first experience playing over Skype, and I felt somewhat handicapped by it. I'm a demonstrative GM. I like using eye contact, hand gestures and the like to convey the action and personalities of my NPCs. I also use that time around the table to gauge my players reactions and get some energy back from them. In Skype, you can't get, or do those things. I felt very limited in my ability as a GM to run a good session for them. Not saying that I won't try Skype again, but it'll take some getting used to.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Having a Cookout

As part of my involvement in the Skies of Glass project with the good guys over at Fear the Boot, I'm converting my Gen Con demo adventure, 'Cookout' to the new and updated Tier 1 rules. We playtest on Thursday (11/29). I'm looking forward to it.

The interesting thing about all this is the way I find myself looking at the adventure. Any other time I've ever written an adventure, whether for publication or personal use, I've always attached some sort of emotional tie to it. The adventure felt very much mine, and to tamper with it was a difficult process, because so much time and love was put into the work.

'Cookout' has not had that same attachment for some reason. While I still want to have a top notch adventure, I find my ability and willingness to change things around to be no big deal. In fact, I am looking at ways I can change things around, or even add to it all to make the adventure more than it was when it debuted at Gen Con. The prospect of making this adventure the "launching pad" for any number of small, pickup games at gaming tables around the world is pretty cool.

Perhaps my emotional attachment has changed its perspective.

Either way, I'm looking forward to see how the playtest shakes out, and how both the rules and the adventure will develop from this point forward.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Strange Connections

You never know where you are going to meet other gamers. The other night, my son's band was playing their first professional gig, and they did a cover of the Deaf Pedestrians "Hail to the Geek." In the second verse, they sing about playing D&D. Of course, I had to cheer. Stand up and represent your hobby, yo!

Anyway, while I was cheering, one of my son's classmates was cheering just as loud. She looked at me and asked, "Do you play?" I responded with a "Hell yeah!" She cheered once again and gave me a very enthusiastic high-five.

After their set was over, I asked her if she really did play. Rather than simply say, "Yup" she launched into a description of her character (dark elf Rogue, level 12). As we continued the conversation, I learned that she gamed with her dad, who was also at the gig. I quickly picked up the conversation with him, and from the scattered bits we could understand (the second band was playing then), he sounds like a guy that wouldn't be too bad to sit at the table with. We made an agreement to try and get something together after the Holidays. I just have to make sure I follow up.

I may have finally found an adult gaming connection down here, which is great. The manner in which I found said connection blows my mind, however.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

A Smaller Party

One of the things I've really tried to get back into is regular gaming sessions with my kids. Since my oldest is in a phase where he's just not interested in playing, that drops my players to three. My wife is pretty busy, and not an avid player, so she's kind of out. That drops us to two. It's a different challenge, especially when you are used to 4+ players, but I'm learning to scale my encounters and make better use of NPCs.

We played a session about two weeks ago, and I was blown away by the creativity and ingenuity of my 11-year old daughter. As we played, I presented plot hooks and options to her and my son in a fashion I was used to (as would most gamers be) doing. While she may have nibbled at such hooks, she never fully bit. She instead really pushed her own agenda. Example? After taking care of some necessary business, and using her magic (she plays a sorcerer) to try and earn some cash, she wanted to check up on a riding horse they had acquired from a previous session. Once she saw the horse was fine, she simply wanted to find a place in the city where she could ride the horse around. Just ride. That's it. That was all she was really looking forward to.

My 13-year old son? He kept waiting for the next fight.

That I can handle.

I did finally get the plot on track, and we may be playing this weekend. Also looks like the wife will be joining in, so it should be fun. They'll actually be taking on their first dungeon crawl. Still, I got an inkling into how my daughter thinks and what she is looking for. I'll have to make sure I keep things balanced.

I'll let you know how it goes.

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Back to the Old (Weird) West
Gaming With Blake

So, Blake & I are getting ready to start a old school Deadlands game. We'll be using the original rules, rather than the Savage Worlds rules. I'm okay with that, but eventually, I plan to try and get him to convert over. We'll see how far it goes.

I'm kind of excited to run this for him. He seems to really enjoy reading the rulebooks. I helped him make his character, an Indian Brave, but left the naming and background up to him. No background yet, but he settled on the name, "One with Buffalo." Quite frankly, it blew me away. I've made a preacher character, and my wife may join in with a character as well.

We'll see what happens.

Since this is my first post here about Blake, I'll take a moment to explain why I'm planning on singling him out. Blake is 13 years old and has Aspbergers Syndrome. He definately has the book smarts, but Blake lacks in areas of Common Sense and general sociability. With RPG's being the social vehicles they are, I think it will be an interesting experiment to see how he adapts to the challenges that face him. He's done okay in previous sessions of D&D that's we've played as a family, but this will be a first solo test.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

A Gaming Evangelist
Expanding the Hobby

The other night, my wife and I were out with another couple, and the conversation eventually found itself on the topic of Gen Con. Being the only one of the four of us ever having attended (and also the only regular gamer), I had the opportunity to talk about the convention, as well as the hobby itself. This, of course led to talking about the games I played, notably Dungeons & Dragons. As I have done in the past when this conversation comes around, I extended the invitation to show the other couple how to play, and run a session for them. They expressed an interest, beyond the normal courtesy given in such matters.

I fully intend to follow through.

This exchange got me thinking about what we, as gamers do to pay the hobby back. It's given us plenty of enjoyment over the years, and we owe it to the hobby to encourage and enlist new gamers into the ranks. Take a moment to think about what you can do to expand the "player base" in your area. Is it offering to run demos at your Friendly Local Gaming Store? Is it starting a club through your local library? Teaching people how to play a certain game via Community Education? Just offering to show some fellow employees how to play? There is a lot that can be done.

Pay it back.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Looking Ahead and Back
Gen Cons Past

This past Gen Con came the announcement that D&D 4e was coming out next May. I didn't attend the announcement and to be honest, I still feel rather ho-hum about the entire thing. I will still check out the rules and changes when I get the time, but I'm happy with my 3.5 right now, thank you very much.

The 4e Announcement made me think back to the days when 3e was announced and released. And after listening to episode 68 of Fear the Boot, I started thinking about it even more. I was there, and shot video of it. Both the announcement and the day it was released a year later. Did it then because we were hot & heavy doing the Wounds Unlimited webzine.

The release was crazy. Because I was press, I was allowed to go into the Exhibitor's Hall early and get a good spot to shoot the throngs that came running in. It was a friggin' madhouse, more so than is shown in the video.

What is in the clip? Well, I have bits and pieces from the announcement session in 1999, with Peter Adkinson, Ryan Dancey (along with some humor as to why 3e was being released), and appearances by Gargy G and Dave Arneson. Some shots of concept sketches and a little reaction from a fan at the session. Then we jump forward to 2000, and where you see a bit of the press conference for the release, then to the real action where folks are rushing in, and a walkthrough of the line of people waiting & hoping to pick up their copy (WotC had 10K copies of the 3e PHB, if memory serves).

What impressed me the most about the 3e release and made it exciting for me, was the legitimacy that Ryan Dancey and WotC efforted to put on the entire event. From the announcement in '99 to the press conference and release party in 2000 (got a sweet D&D shot class that eventually broke). Any effort to make our hobby more mainstream is good in my book.

I ask for forgiveness for the shaky elements in the video. I was usually far away and with no tripod. Also, the audio was weak in some spots, mostly due to the old tape.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Gen Con 2007
More Thanks & Such

I would be remiss if I did not take a moment to say a large 'Thank You' to those who were, in many ways, responsible for me going to Gen Con this year.

First up is Dan Repperger from Fear the Boot. He was very inclined to have me come along to help them out in their efforts to promote Skies of Glass. There was a lot of generosity to Dan's offer. More than I'm willing to admit to in a public forum. Suffice to say, the man was generous and I was reluctant to accept.

And that is where the second person I need to thank comes in. My wife, Julie is really the one to blame for all this. She encouraged me to go. Said it would be good for me. Said it would good for me to help out. To enjoy my hobby. She was willing to have me take my vacation days for myself, rather than the whole family. To add to this, I left for Gen Con not long after Julie and the kids returned from a 3-week trip to our hometown. It was a great reminder as to why I married her.

So to both Dan and my wonderfully incredible wife Julie, I send out a 'Thank You.' Without either, I wouldn't have gone this year.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Gen Con 2007
Some Other Notes

There was so much to the Con this year that it would be hard to recount all the stories. Of the several cool things worth mentioning, one was the fact that the day I was leaving for the Con, I learned that friends of mine from my old hometown were going. These were guys I'd gamed with for years, but haven't stayed in close contact with since moving about a year ago.

I made a vow to try and find them or call them while at the Con, but I didn't have to. They found me.. and by accident.

I was running my first session of Skies of Glass, when I turned to look and saw my good friend Shayne standing right there. It was really good to see him. He was at the Con playing mostly Living Arcanis events, but after a small chat, we agreed to try and meet up for a beer or two. Over the course of the Con, I ran into the other two guys. It was a brief, but wonderful reunion.

Though we played a great game of phone tag, we never did meet up.

Perhaps next year.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Gen Con 2007
Last Day - Make It Count

This was me on Saturday Morning...

I only had two scheduled players show up for Saturday's session, Eric and Dan. Eric had played before, but Dan was new. We had a third ask to sit in, after his scheduled event never materialized. Like the previous two times, this event went well. I was once again lucky.

After the session was done, it was off with both Eric and Dan to the Catalyst session about Classic BattleTech. Got a good read on what I need to do over the course of the next year. I left that session more determined than ever.

By now though, it was 4pm, and I had only two hours before the Exhibitor's Hall closed. I still needed to shop for my kids. I got that taken care of, then this happened.

What are ya gonna do?

I still had a bit of freetime left, so I watched a bit of this. It was kinda cool.

The hall was closing down not long after this, so I swung by the Catalyst booth to say my goodbye's to both Loren and Randall at the Catalyst booth. Both encouraged me to get something in. I promised I would. Randall then shocked me by pulling an obscure memory from a Gen Con seven years ago. I was both shocked and amused.

Leaving the Hall, I headed back to the hotel, and got all my stuff together. Gen Con goes through Sunday, but I was leaving at 3am Sunday morning, so this was my last day. I grabbed some dinner and headed down for the podcaster Meet & Greet. A chance for podcasters to get together and meet their fans and each other.

It was a good time. I got to meet a lot of fellow FtB forum posters. It was nice to put faces to names. Here's a shot of John, me and Adam.

The Meet & Greet wound down. I still needed to cover one more event.

I left the party early because I wanted to spend a bit more time with the folks that helped make it possible for me to be here this year.

I got back not long after the fan episode of Fear the Boot. From there, it was just hanging out until I had to head back to the bus depot.

I won't bore you with the trip back, except to say that it was long and a struggle for me to find any kind of sleep. The only excitement came when I almost missed my connecting bus in Chicago. Not good excitement, mind you.

I came home to awaiting arms of a happy wife and children. I was thrilled to see them as well.

As I have said, this Gen Con was easily in the Top 3 I've ever been to. I look forward to goign back next year (we hope).
Gen Con 2007
Once More Into the Breach - Friday

Thursday evening was spent well enough. I was pulled along to the "podcasters only" party at the Hard Rock. Though I do not have a podcast and only very peripherally associate with one, I chose to change my name to "Bob Coattails" for the evening.

It was a good party, but sadly in a too small room, and very loud. I was able to chat for a bit with Mike Stackpole, and Tex from Fear the Boot. I was impressed by the number of people and influence that Daniel Perez seems to have amongst the podcasting group. Cool.

Eventually, Adam, John and I left that room, and just grabbed a table to kill time. When Dan finally extracted him self from the party, we all headed back for the hotel. Adam and his friend Paul and I spent about an hour in the hot tub, just chilling out (a bit contradictory, I know).

Weird story of the day comes right about here. In the pool area were two people who apparently worked at the Lego booth at Gen Con (I never found that booth, btw). Anyway, this man and woman apparently were not staying at the hotel we were at. Instead, they were living in a van on top of a nearby parking ramp. I was hoping it would be down by a river. Anyhoo, both had decided to take advantage of the hotel's showers. They were using them to clean up, then they were back off to the parking ramp to sleep or party, or both. Who knows?

Friday found me back up early, and I decided to hit the gym, before breakfast and the Con. I left behind Dan, his brother Tex, and John, all snoozing. After workout and a shower, I ran into Adam and we hit Mickey D's for breakfast.

I like Adam. Many times during the con he and I gelled on a number of topics, most notably getting cheap food.

Anyway, breakfast, then off to the Exhibitor's Hall once again (my favorite place). My next session was at 2pm, so I had some time.

Made the stop by the Catalyst Games booth to get in touch with my old BattleTech contacts to say 'Hi' and to let them know I was really serious about writing. The encounter went well. I was encouraged.

Also took some time to find my event location. That was the big trouble this year. Gaming events were all mixed up it seems. My event on Friday was listed in three different locations.

I eventually did find my location (several blocks away), and people started to show up. The bonus on this event was that three people just showed up to play, having chosen the event at random. These folks were not podcast listeners, nor had they even heard of the podcast. This truly shocked me. They wanted to play, and I was happy to oblige.

The sad part of this is that one of the guys from the day before who was there to play again, willingly backed out of the event as the table became overfilled. Bob was and is still a good man.

The event went very well, and even though it was the same adventure I ran from yesterday, the outcome was completely different than the day before. This was actually a new experience for me as a GM. It taught me a lot about writing adventures and what to think about and plan for. I find it very cool after the 25 years I've played RPGs that I can still learn lessons like this.

It was kind of funny. I noticed that both this time and on Thursday when I ran the event I was very nervous. I think it had a lot to do with the players. You never know what kind of players and player types you are going to get. The GM mood can set the tone for the session, so I did my best to make sure the table stayed motivated and fun. I was not disappointed.

Friday evening found us at the ENnie Awards, where we watched lots of independent game companies win the awards. One game that stood out for me was Qin ("chin"). I'd never heard of it, but it looks gorgeous. Also got to watch Dan give a brief talk about the impact that podcasting is having and will continue to have on the RPG industry. He's a well-spoken man (if not a bit long winded) :) That video to come soon.

A bunch of us cut out of the ENnie awards early, and back to the hotel room to record an episode of Fear the Boot. Eventually, I went to bed... very late, knowing full well I had to get up by 8:00am the next morning.

Here's another walkthrough video.

Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Gen Con 2007
More On Thursday

After running the first Skies of Glass session, it was off to grab some quick lunch than finally to the Exhibitor's Hall.

The Exhibitor's Hall is truly a sight to behold. Huge, filled with people and games, it really is the best part of the Con, because you can not only partake in demos, you can buy all kinds of stuff.

Here's a few walk-throughs

Finally, I have my photo album from the Con. You can view it all below.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Gen Con 2007
Thursday Morning

An update and some shots of the early Cardhalla work.

I did eventually find my room, and was able to sit down for my first convention event in over 10 years. Yow. Fortunately, I got lucky and had two great players show up. I needed four, but both of these guys (Fear the Boot listeners and forum posters) wanted to play, and I wanted to GM, so we did the time-honored gamer tradition of "winging it." Each player ran two characters. It went very well. We all had a blast. Received some good, positive, feedback about the rules and the scenario. I was happy.

Here's some video of the Event Registration line at 7:10am on Thursday. These guys start early and are hardcore. The video itself may not be exciting, but I do catch one guy cutting in line.

Gen Con 2007

To any gamer, Gen Con is a Destination, but also a Journey. Very few gamers can get to Gen Con easily, without a tale or two to tell.

This was my first time going to Gen Con in several years. Every other year involved a Road Trip with friends, but not this year. This year I took the bus. Yes, a big 'ole greyhound. So, come along...

I'm traveling through eastern Iowa and Western Illinois. It's not the interstate, it's not even a major highway. It's winding roads, through cattle farms, cornfields, and small towns that seem almost forgotten by modern world.

My iPod is my companion.I listen to Superman's Song by the Crash Test Dummies, All the Wild Horses by Ray LaMontagne and I Pray For You by Big & Rich as my shuffle feature seems to know what to play to match the scenery.

My bus is about half full, filled with a good cross section of folks; old & young, mother & kids, poor and almost as poor, and me. Mrs. Doubtfire plays on the in-bus video system. Robin Williams is supposedly a Warhammer player, so I find this strangely appropriate.

Our driver, a woman with a happy disposition looks like Sam Kinnison.

We stop in the middle of Illinois-nowhere for a smoke/bathroom/McDonald's break. I opt for a piece of beef jerky and a Cherry Vanilla Dr. Pepper, because it's cheap, yet the siren smell of fries is tempting. I remind myself of the junk food I'll be eating for the next four days or so, and the temptation goes back to its naughty corner... for now.

We get stuck behind someone who views the speed limit on this single lane road as something optional. Suddenly my looming three hour layover in Chicago seems not so long.

My daughter calls me. It's obvious she misses me (though only gone for a few hours), and I am unnecessarily short with her. I recover, but become worried about the life of my crappy cell phone battery. We still share a pleasant exchange.

I turn back to reading a book about advertising given to me by boss. It is interesting, but the road monotony makes me sleepy.

We stop in Dubuque, Freeport (a real town, not the Green Ronin product, though I find it game-ingly appropriate) and Rockford, IL to pick up more people. By Rockford, the bus is pretty full. My discomfort starts as a guy sits down in front of me and promptly puts his seat back into my knees. I spend the rest of the trip at an angle.

Finally we reach Chi-town. The skies are stormy dark, and the bus depot is a scene of chaos. Hundreds of people talk in a variety of languages, as they wait in queue for their bus. A modern-day Babel. After ordering a double hamburger from the bus station greasy spoon, I join them.

I stand for a welcome two hours, people watching. Mothers with their kids close by (or not), Old folks, businessmen, families. I watch group of Amish waiting in chairs. They eat Doritos and drink from large thermos coolers. I change my perception of them. I am pan handled. Some guy gets into an argument with security. I'm asked more than once to watch someone's place inline or bag. I must have that kind of face.

Finally we board. It is a capacity bus, and Fate places me in an aisle seat, my chances of sleeping become virtually nil. I talk to the guy next to me, and learn he's traveling from Marquette, MI to Gainsville, FL. A 3-day trip. Yow. I also learn about his recent history and how he came back home to Michigan only to find his girlfriend in bed with another man. He tries to sue her, and loses. Through various twists and turns in his saga, he loses 10K. He's going to Florida for a new job and a new life.

We reach Indy and I make my way to the hotel. I am panhandled... twice more. I finally make it to the hotel, meet Daniel Perez for the first time in person. He's just and genial in person as he is in forum posts and e-mails. I settle down on some couch cushions and get 2 hours of sleep before I'm up again and off to the Con.