Santicore 2014 Delivers

This is my #nerdy9th post.

So, you know how around the holidays every year there’s some kind of Secret Santa exchange?

In the OSR/gaming world, that exchange comes in the form of Santicore, a swap of adventures, monsters, treasures, NPCs, and ideas that get requested, created, and then published online for everyone to read and use. This year, Santicore is 5 PDFs chock full of tables, artwork, maps, and ideas to use.

My submission is the Golem’s Spa, an underground¬† manufacturing complex for a giant robot, in the Adventures PDF. Here’s what the requestor sent me yesterday by email:

Wow, it looks like you put a lot of work into my Santicore request. Just to let you know I really appreciate it. The complex fits well with my vision and I will have fun working it into my campaign if things go that way.
It is a great twist that the Woman of Iron is sentient and witty, now how she acquired that consciousness is the question, as her male counterpart was a big destroying lug controlled by his nine smaller-size metal parts each fused to the body of a different wearer. I like the oozes too, this is obviously a different branch of dwarven civilization that sculpted this area! Lots to think about.

I had so much fun writing that adventure, although if I were going to revise it one more time, I’d include more of the feedback I got from one of my beta readers, who had great suggestions for demonstrating the long passage of time. I’d probably also do a finer edit on the whole thing– I noticed when I re-read it yesterday a couple of unclear descriptions. And hire a map artist, because, unsurprisingly, my maps are terrible.

There is no possible way I will ever make as much money as a game designer as I do writing technical manuals. Getting an email like the one above made my day and put a huge smile on my face.

(I don’t remember what my request was, but I’m pretty sure it was the “torture devices in a dungeon” entry, which is filed in Adventures.)

Posted in Game Design | Tagged | Leave a comment

Last Monster on Earth

Here’s the pitch for something I’m thought-noodling about: Last Monster on Earth.

Two years ago, humanity was wiped out in some hideous and entirely fatal manner. Plague? Zombies? Aliens? Divine intervention? Eco-disaster? Who knows– what matters is that you survived.

Are you the last of humankind? Oh, no. For that, you would have had to be human in the first place….

The Bible almost got it right, though.

The “freak” shall inherit the Earth.

In Last Monster on Earth, you play a monstrous being in a post-apocalyptic wasteland of what was once Earth.

Who_stole_my_Cookies_by_Beloved_CreatureAs a group, the players determine what caused the extinction of humanity, and whether there are any human survivors (and if so, how the monsters relate to them).

They also identify one or more external threats that loom over the monstrous PCs. For example, if zombies took down humanity, those Zeds might not be too picky about eating werewolf brains. What killed the humans might be ready to pick off the monsters– and may have already started.

There are also the environmental threats– vampires have lost their ready source of human blood, for example. Werewolves no longer have the “hunt” to rely on. Cyborgs will eventually have a fuel or parts problem. Monsters once accustomed to lurking in the shadows and relying on humanity to give them cover are now thrust into the open, to sink or swim. PCs come up with the environmental challenges that the others must grapple with in the course of the campaign.

And of course, there are a few truly clueless ones, who believe they’re the sole human survivors of the disaster. And who don’t realize, or won’t admit, that their strange new powers might not be caused by the apocalypse, but might have been there all along.

The poor, deluded fools.

I’m thinking this will be an Apocalypse World hack, very close to AW in its mechanics and even setting. Really more like a hack/setting rather than a whole new game. But I’m also considering using the Fate framework, which would allow for much stranger aberrations of monsters in the world. All I know is that I dreamed this idea last night, and I really, really like it.


Posted in Game Design | Tagged | Leave a comment

February 2015 Books and Games

Books: #51bookchallenge

#5: Silver Bullets, by Ryan States. (m, for podcast)

#6: Monster of the Week rpg game book (m)

Games: #51in15

#8: Summer Song (playtest) by Josh Jordan (2 players)

#9: The Whispering Road by Brent Newhall (2 players)

#10: Red November (3 players)

#11: Tanto Cuore (3 players, <30 minutes)

#12: Dungeon World: Dragon Slaying (9 players, con game)

#13: Loonacy (2 players, <30 minutes)

#14: Best Friends (4 players, con game, Games on Demand)

#15: FATE: Mecha vs. Kaiju (5 players, con game)

#16: Night’s Black Agents (6 players, con game, Horse in the Race)

#18: Spirit of 77 (6 players, con game)

#19: Epyllion one-shot (6 players, online game, female-written game)

#20: Dungeon World in Dragonia (4 players)

#21: Dungeon World one shot (6 players)

5-over-5 6-roleplaying-games=15-roleplaying-games

Leaving out games that are continuations of existing games/storylines/campaigns (Whispering Road, 13th Age, etc).

Posted in BookReviews-text | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Orccon 2015 Roundup

2015-02-13 14.37.01I went to Strategicon over Presidents Day weekend, and did some gaming! I brought a friend and fellow gamer along with me, who played in most of the games I participated in (this was his first larger convention, so it was good to have a buddy). Mike and Justin also went to Strategicon, but I barely saw them all weekend.

Friday Afternoon: Dungeon World Dragonslaying

On Friday afternoon, I jumped into Matt Smith’s Dungeon World game about slaying a dragon. Alas, we had about 2 too many players, but it was a raucous fun game with lots of over-the-top shenanigans. I played the Thief and made a dragon-sleeping poison that I used to knock it out and then backstabbed it for the final death blow!

One thing I did like about the session was that Matt had given the game a Monster of the Week structure, which intrigued me enough to buy a copy for future gaming.

We had some player-conflict when one of the players picked my friend’s cleric to be the target of all his bonds. This resulted in my friend feeling like he was being told how to play his character. Normally, when you have a bond or two, you’re influencing someone else’s character, but they still have a lot of say in who that PC is. In this case, the guy was inventing years of backstory that my friend just wasn’t enthusiastically consenting to. At one point, the guy implied some priestly "inappropriate touching," and that was when the X card was thrown.

We took a bio break, the player and my friend discussed it and he changed directions, but it put a damper on my friend’s enjoyment of the rest of the session. He still managed to have some fun, but we both didn’t mind taking the night off afterwards.

Saturday Morning: Best Friends at Games on Demand2015-02-14 09.14.35

Saturday morning, I had signed up for a session, but decided to spend the time doing my stint at Games on Demand.

Games on Demand is a different format from the usual "pre-register/sign up and play a 4-hour session prepped and offered by GMs" format. Instead, the games are shorter– about 2 hours is average. It’s more like a demo. And the GM doesn’t provide a single game, but rather has a few options on offer.

In my case, I was prepared to run one of five games, including Best Friends, Time Quest (a time travel hack for Goblin Quest that I’m writing), Lasers and Feelings, Out of the Blue, and Vesna Thaw. We hung around for about forty minutes while a few ambitious players found us, and then started Best Friends.

The players were my friend, Kristine (who works for a game company), and Ira (who played the Holder in last Strategicon’s AW game). We all played time travelers, stranded in the Cretaceous period, a few hours before the asteroid is about to hit Earth, wiping out the dinosaurs.

This was actually a really good setup and crisis. Our characters were a 21st century goth girl, an Italian Renaissance woman, an advanced being from the 30th century, and a homeschooled fundamentalist/paleontologist (she studies the paleo record in search of hard evidence proving the coexistence of dinosaurs and homo sapiens). The homeschooled was my character– I tried to handle it in a gently zealous way without being offensive.

My character also had a very uncomfortable crush on the goth girl.

Anyway, there were many shenanigans as we tried to deal with a sabotages time machine, a baby triceratops… then a mother triceratops! An ichthyosaur. Imminent fiery death. The belief that the imminent fiery death was an angel. And a certain amount of narrative symmetry that only comes about when the storytellers are really just keeping the ball up in the air for as long as they can.

At one point, the goth girl framed me for sabotage, claiming that I had thrown a bunch of gears from the time machine into the ocean. Not long after, I deliberately messed up the Italian girl’s drawing out of jealousy. She (played by Ira) responded by smashing the canvas over my head, literally framing me. When I found the actual saboteur was the goth girl, I covered for her and threw the gears (from her purse) into the ocean. When she found out, she accused me of doing so, but at that point, everyone had already heard that story and just said "so what?"

We resolved the story narratively by fixing the time machine just enough to go to one place and time, and picked Renaissance Italy. The goth girl and I hung around, finally heading up north to join the Vikings, which is where we were when a phone booth containing George Carlin arrived to save us.

Saturday Evening: Mecha vs. Kaiju FATE Game

godzillaIn the evening, we got into a FATE game using the Mecha vs. Kaiju rules. This was an odd game–very mechanics intensive, considering it’s still a FATE game. The players played the mecha, except my friend, who played Godzilla from the Godzilla Power Hour Saturday morning kids’ cartoon. I was a Battletech mecha whose main aspects seemed to revolve around being connected to her team. We were, none of us, a team, so that rather failed to be engaged.

The strength in the game was that the GM was really, really into kaiju and knew absolutely everything about them. The first two and a half hours were spent basically on the opening scene/first round of combat, while the conversation drifted around among various Godzilla movies and whether the Matthew Broderick Godzilla is the absolute worst, or just in the top 3.

To put this in perspective: I do not know many kaiju movies. I saw last year’s Godzilla, and I saw Cloverfield. The ins and outs of whether Mechagodzilla would take Mechmothra in a fight just elude me.

But for two and a half hours, I was laughing my ass off and caught up in their enthusiasm and having a great time.

And then… we hit the Plot. There is nothing wrong with having a plot framework, but the GM had previously been saying "yeah, why not?" whenever we suggested doing something wild and crazy. Now, once we had encountered the Plot and were trying to creatively problem-solve… now, we heard "no" a lot.

The first two and a half hours were epic. The last 90 minutes found us doodling in the margins and passing notes asking if it would be rude to leave (answer: yes, by that point it would be).

It was clear that the GM had a firm idea of how we should resolve the adventure, and although fighting it out was interesting to some of the players, it just didn’t do it for Saturday Morning Godzilla, so he tried talking to the kaiju opponent to resolve it. That didn’t go over well with the GM, but eventually the rest of the players did enough physical damage to the kaiju forces to make him feel like he could surrender, I suppose.

By the end, we were pretty drained, but we did have fun for most of the session. It was just a good object lesson in letting go of your plot as a GM.

Sunday Afternoon: Night’s Black Agents

On Sunday afternoon, I ran the Night’s Black Agents scenario I’ve been writing for Pelgrane Press. I won’t go too much into it here, just that (a) I need to get more writing done, and (b) there’s a lot that has to be left out for convention play. Also: Don’t forget to print out and bring the pre-gens, or it’ll cut into your session considerably (sigh).

Sunday Evening: Spirit of 77

This was the unexpected highlight of the convention for us. Spirit of 77 is an Apocalypse Engine game set in the 1970’s in a high-octane action media extravaganza. We had Bowie Stardust (a David Bowie character), Natalya the former Russian Olympic athlete-turned-private investigator, The Hammer (a sexy beast of a man), . And the GM was extremely well-prepped with a very fun, over-the-top hilarious scenario that had multiple directions it could go.

The scenario was "Escape from the Women’s Prison of the Apes." The concept was that we needed to orchestrate a prison break, from a women’s prison, which had turned to enhanced simians as guards.

The role-playing and shenanigans… well, at one point, the vigilante was so intimidating, the GM said "you know, I find myself actually intimidated by that glare of yours." My friend playing Bowie commented later that he was actually kind of afraid, until the guy broke character and started laughing. I used my fake Russian accent to great advantage.

"Anyone remember who invented the twerk?" asks Matt, playing the Hammer.

"I think the Hammer did," I reply.

"That’s right!" And he jumps up to start twerking, explaining that his character is pantsless, on the back of the Burnside, and waving an American flag.

And at one point, the redneck was told "well, the ape you made friends with is on the other side of that concrete wall, so…" "Oh, I get out of my truck and go inside to get her!" "No, no. I mean it’s right on the other side of the wall, there." "Then forget the first half of that statement. I just go inside. With the truck."

The whole session was full of fun and laughter and music and silliness. It was amazing and a great way to cap off the weekend. When we left, my friend told me to go on the Kickstarter and add a physical copy of the game to my backer rewards, because he wants his own copy that much.

The Rest of the Weekend

The rest of the weekend was either non-gaming, small casual games (we played Loonacy a couple of times), and the games auction. At the end of the auction, we had sold 9 lots of gaming books and materials, going home with just my Dystopian Wars miniatures. Apparently, I’m going to have to take it back up again just to have a reason to still have those minis and paints.

Posted in Gaming | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Contessa Blog: GMing Tools

This month, over on the ConTessa blog, the other GMs and I round-tabled about the tools we’re using to prep for and run our games.

Pretty interesting read, if only because we all prep with different tools and approaches.

What about you? What interesting or different tools do you use to prep and run your games?

Posted in Gaming | Tagged | Leave a comment