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TimeWatch: Conquest of the Americas

55f70f0ffd42adf2585167d3a1bb0c38_largeIn my Wednesday night game this week, I took over as GM for a couple of sessions and ran TimeWatch.

Opening Scene: The PCs are watching the salvage operation of an anachronistic U-boat off the coast of Canada… it’s about 1000 years old, or 960 years before it was originally sunk. The PCs feel a time ripple and are abruptly recalled by a rather rude sophosaur, Leeph, who it turns out is their handler.

Leeph doesn’t like the human PCs much and calls them “pinks.” Skegg, however, is rather happy with this turn of events, especially now that the TimeWatch office seems to have been taken over by sophosaurs, and they have much more comfortable, tail-accommodating seats available.

Leeph orders Skegg to take her pinks and do some bug-hunting. World War III is always a good place to start.

The PCs instead do a little TimeWatch research and learn that, in the new timeline, the tribal nations of Turtle Island successfully fended off the European predations. They go back to 1600, Mexico, and discover that the Aztecs had gunpowder and the means to manufacture guns, before the Spanish arrived. Dr. Breen notes that the Aztec empire seems to be thriving, even though by this point in history, about 80% of their population had been obliterated by disease. Skegg has a few words with a sophosaur guard– apparently there are “spirit skins,” men who are also giant lizards. The sophosaur appears to be doing a damned good job of moving like a human, and they chat about brooding (the guard for some reason thinks Skegg is brooding, since she seems to have “egg brain”).

They learn from a friend of Uurrk’s about the past 70 years or so of history here in Mexico, where the Europeans were unable to get a foothold and have established trading routes and posts. Future-Uurrk helped a Spanish merchant, Jaime de la Cruz, escape from Aztec slavery, having been captured after attempting to sell guns without a permit.

At the temple library, Dr. Breen finds that the northern tribes have a more Scandinavian-inspired culture, and are also lighter skinned. They jump back to 1013 CE, Newfoundland, Canada, the site of Anse Aux Meadows, the very first known Viking settlement.

Here, Uurrk finds and buys a nice shiny axe. Skegg-as-expecting becomes a running joke. Mace Hunter drinks heavily at the meadhall. The party meets Bjarni Herjolfsson and his grown son Anssono Bjarnson. Bjarni is the first Viking who saw the North American mainland, back in 985, but did not make landfall in the true timeline. In the alternate timeline, a sea creature attack forced him to land and make limited contact with the native tribes. Eventually, he returned to Greenland and helped sponsor the expedition with Lief Erikson, which would lead to this settlement.

At this point, I should point out that Steve, our regular GM, is having utter nerdgasms because I’ve put dinosaurs and Vikings in the same adventure.

But it is with growing horror as my players and, by extension, their characters, realize that in the true timeline, Anssono died at age 13 during a raid, and his mother Garnissa disappeared. This led to Bjarni’s tragic suicide in 1003; he never made it to the North American mainland.

Did I really just set them up to go back 10 years and kill a 13 year old boy? Would I do that?

Five Shores: Episode 1.1

I started a new Dungeon World campaign last weekend. It’s online with a bunch of people I only know through Google+, but they seem like good folks. We rotate GMing, so one person will GM for 3 sessions, then the baton is passed. Whatever fronts you develop as a GM you can either hang onto or share with others in the Wiki. Obviously, the GM’s character doesn’t participate in the GM’s adventure, but at the end of your 3-session run, your character levels up.

Rory was supposed to GM the first run, and had established that he wanted to start the party on a privateering ship on their way to a land where they would meet up with his PC. However, Rory had other obligations and needed someone else to step in. I volunteered.

In the party last weekend, we had:

  • Father Brennan, a priest of Maskius, the god of civilization
  • Maka, a fighter with a background as a ship’s rigger
  • Admago, the psion

Not present were:

  • Kexane the mage
  • A bard, name unknown, who specializes in undead lore
  • Mea A’a (my character), a pygmy (halfling) druid from the savage Sapphire Islands

Keep in mind that the initial setup– on the Windbreaker traveling to a distant land– was Rory’s.

windbreakerWe started on a privateering ship, the Windbreaker, which was in the middle of a ferocious and unnatural storm. The captain had been rendered unconscious, and the party had to fight the storm with a skeleton crew (that’s an understaffed crew, not a crew of skeleton pirates). The storm had a weird, chemical stench to it, and Maka steered the ship around a “ship-breaker of a whirlpool” before getting us out of the storm. Father Brennan set a beacon towards “the nearest civilization” and they steered towards that.

In the morning, Admago learned that the captain had been poisoned. Father Brennan discovered that the cook had been killed. And Maka discovered that half of the gunpowder was missing, presumably during the storm.

This set off an investigation in which the party talked to crewmen, not all of whom were honest. They found a small shrine to a sea god in the cargo hold, and Maka set a trusted friend (Shivers) to secure the cargo. Their chief suspect is a crewman named Finn.

island-nightmareThey decided to make landfall at an island, but were warned that this is the Isle of Wastes, a common stop for pirates using its reef-protected cove, but certain death to anyone who sets foot on it. Just as they were coming around to the cove, the gunpowder on board blew up.

Kaboom! Chaos ensued. Admago bailed out rapidly as did most of the rest of the crew. Maka steered towards the reef, hoping to scuttle close enough for some salvage later. Father Brennan dove off, but saw a fire elemental demon leaping along the side of the ship, so he climbed back aboard to fight it. Maka fought it for one round, realized that his fists would do nothing to the fiend (elementals can only be harmed in special ways), and bailed out as well. Father Brennan faced the demon, one-on-one, for several rounds, giving cover to the cabin boy (Mouse) and Shivers to get off the ship and to safety. Finally, also realizing he would not be able to harm the demon without using the demon’s own summoning glyph (an act the good father is not willing to perform, ever), he tackled the fiery beast, going into the water, at which point it was promptly banished.

On shore, Admago focused on the future and saw a near-future event in which they would all be captured by enormous humanoids. He called to everyone to take cover, and we ended the session with their ship burning just off shore, and the remaining crew and adventuring party hiding in the trees in a cold camp, hoping the giants don’t find them.

In one session, I broke the other DM’s ship and marooned the party on a hostile island with giants, a fire elemental who is much too interested in the priest, and a possible murderer.

And those are just the dangers they know about.

Orccon 2014: Games We Played at Strategicon

In the car on the way home after Strategicon, I like to talk with Mike about what games we played and how they worked or didn’t wor. It’s a post-mortem that helps me get perspective on the weekend and what I enjoyed about the experience, what I would change, and generally so I can learn and grow as a gamer and designer. I then like to write down our thoughts and experiences, even if they’re not full write-ups, so that I can remember later what happened and how the con went.

Continue reading Orccon 2014: Games We Played at Strategicon

14 Games in 2014

I think I’ve given myself a personal challenge: write 14 games in 2014. It’s part of my unofficial “game design apprenticeship” in which I try to become a great game designer through hard work, study, creativity, and maybe a bit of luck.

I posted about my first two last week, d3 GUM and Night of the Barrel.

I also remembered that a couple of years ago, I wrote a little deck builder called Kings and Queens. I’m still kind of playtesting the rules, but it’s here for anyone who’d like to see it.

So be watching this category/tag for more games. And I’ll be looking for game design contests as well, because they’re very inspirational!

And there’s a new page in the sidebar for Games I’ve Written, where I’ll add games as I release them.

Note I say “release.” I don’t really consider any of these “finished” in the sense of being a polished game, ready for production. But they’re neat little microgames that you can play if you want to, and if you give me your feedback, that’s even better.

Update (3/24): I figured out my criteria for the challenge. When I’m comfortable releasing it here for public playtesting, it counts for the challenge.

Two Free Microgames

Lately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about games, and reading games, and wanting to design games.

A couple of years ago, Wil Wheaton issued a challenge to “just make stuff.” It was limited in scope– for one day, just make something, and then release it for others to enjoy.

I make stuff all the time, of course. Between knitting and gaming and writing, I’m in a state of pretty much nonstop creativity. My shower should really have a whiteboard in it… and now I have a product idea…

But I digress. “Make something.” What came out of Wheaton’s challenge was Threadbare, a stitchpunk RPG about broken toys in a broken world. It’s still in beta, but I’m getting excited about the possibilities. Threadbare is a cool setting and an interesting world. If I were going to release/publish it, I would definitely make a variation that is powered by Apocalypse World and/or a Fate setting (if not a blend of both). The setting and concept are far more interesting, in my opinion, than the clunky mechanics that I come up with.

As a result of all the time I spend thinking and writing about games, I’ve started to write some games. One great way to practice writing games is to enter game design contests, like the one for The Dungeon of Lost Coppers hosted by Dyson Logos, or the Night of the Barrel on that ends tonight, by Matthew Bannock. The ConTessa convention was a great source of inspiration and contests. For that one, I wrote this little microgame called d3 GUM: Generic Universal Microgame.


It’s a universal tactical RPG that uses a d3, with an optional rule for using a fudge die instead of a d3.

It’s actually not that robust of a game, but I enjoyed making it. I describe it as “Gurps as a d3 microgame” because it’s super-crunchy for such a small game.

It fits on a quarter piece of paper, double-sided. I’m considering having it printed up as postcards, because I think that’s hilarious.

I also  made this little game:


It’s another microgame. This one fits on a 4″ coaster, and is a story game about beers conspiring against each other, for glory. This is my entry into the Night of the Barrel contest– the other entry as of today is a really neat game, also pub-themed, that reads like a crossover between The Hangover (the movie) and Baron Munchausen (the game).

This is the third game I’ve made, like, ever, aside from writing countless adventures to run my players through as a GM. This week will also challenge my creativity as I am running two games online– one is the first adventure in a new Dungeon World campaign (The Five Shores), and the other is a 2-session arc of Timewatch for the Wednesday night D&D group (you may remember them as the TuesdayDnD group… we had a scheduling change).


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