Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Free RPG Day Recap, Redux

It would be remiss of me not to mention that 401 Games, while not carrying every title from Goodman Games or every Dungeon Crawl Classics module, did have Dread on Demon Crown Hill waiting for me, as well as core books and several other adventures. They also asked me to put them in contact with Goodman Games in order to get the funky dice.

I had an early Father's Day after running Gnole House with my older children, so that they could attend their mother's birthday party on Sunday. We used the board games cafe at 401 Games, playing a game called T.I.M.E. Stories. We managed to beat the game just before the store closed.

T.I.M.E. Stories is sort of a locked room mystery played using a board. Unfortunately, once you've finished it, that's the game. Fortunately, there are additional expansions that allow for different game scenarios. I recommend trying the game, but I don't know if I recommend the price tag for a game you only get to beat once.

We had a discussion about getting a copy, with the expansion scenarios, playing through them, and then passing it on at half cost. It would be less than movie tickets for four, if purchased in this manner, and was certainly more entertaining than many films I've seen.

On Sunday, I dropped by Doug Miller Books, where I was able to obtain a Manly Wade Wellman book, The Beyonders, that I hadn't heard of before. There was actually a fair amount of Appendix N material there, although you have to do some looking to find it. Zoinks! is another place where I've had luck rounding out my collection, as is the BMV by Bloor and Spadina.

I'm only about halfway through The Beyonders, but it is (not surprisingly) good so far. As always, when reading Appendix N fiction, I find myself considering how to express characters, situations, and creatures in Dungeon Crawl Classics terms. The Beyonders is short on creatures, so far, but otherwise would fit in well in a Chained Coffin campaign. Or in the Esoteric America of Secret Antiquities. Something involving Michael Curtis, anyway.

Free RPG Day Recap

For this year’s Free RPG Day, I ran Michael Curtis’ excellent adventure, Gnole House, at 401 Games in Toronto. I had scheduled the game to start at noon, but the Free RPG Day give-away started in-store at 10 am, and almost everything was gone by the time I got there. Nonetheless, the store had set aside not only enough copies of the Goodman Games Free RPG Day DCC Quick-Starter  to make sure that every player at the table got one, but I was also given a 4th Printing rulebook to give away. And I did.

This was in addition to a print copy of The Revelation of Mulmo – Tentacled Edition – which I contributed from my own private stash.

(Dueling Grounds, which had been my previous go-to for Free RPG Day events, moved to Peterborough this spring, thus requiring me to find a new venue. I had done one event with Hairy Tarantula, but their downtown location closed last year. Nonetheless, I was glad to discover that 401 Games now has more than ample space for gaming, and actually runs a games café with a great selection.)

Because of its location, I had imagined that there would be a good turnout for Free RPG Day, and planned for a maximum of 10 players. I got four, three of whom had never played Dungeon Crawl Classics before, and one of whom was an old hand who had played in my Free RPG Day game last year.

After a brief rundown of class abilities, each player chose a single character out of the 14 that I had pregenerated using the tools at Purple Sorcerer. We ended up with a dwarf, a wizard, a halfling, and a thief. Because there was no cleric, I supplied two doses of the balm of St. Cuthbert, which could heal 1 HD when applied.

Gnole House is based on How NuthWould Have Practiced His Art Upon the Gnoles, by Lord Dunsany, and The Man WhoSold Rope to the Gnoles, by Margaret St. Clair. Both are good (and short!) reads, and if you have never read them you should. Particularly if you are going to run this adventure.

Well, the fearless PCs found their way to the high, narrow house in the wood, looking for both clues as to the fate of that fearless seller of cordage and the emeralds that the gnoles were believed to own. The thief went scouting around the house on his own, prompting the watch-gnole to leave his hollow tree. But, unlike Nuth, the other PCs weren’t willing to allow their companions to die so easily, and shouted a warning from where they watched from the trees.

What followed was the gnole shaking hands and miming human customs, urging his potential next meal into the house.

I have no desire to ruin the adventure, so at this point I am just going to say that a great time was had by all. One player remarked that, for all his years playing D&D, he had never actually been in a “murder house” before. The dwarf turned out to be quite the old-school tactician, using various furnishings to create alarms that would notify the PCs if a secret door opened, checked various pieces of furniture to see if they moved (the secret doors were fixed in place), and so on.

Even with the balm of St. Cuthbert, the dwarf was dropped to 0 hp twice, the halfling once, and the thief once. Only the wizard managed to escape without coming within an inch of death. The dwarf, who had reduced his Luck to 0, only survived by rolling a 4!

Strangely, no “1”s were rolled during the session, and if memory serves the only critical hits were a “16” from the halfling and a backstab from the thief. I rolled dice in the open, as is my custom, and had the players roll damage when they were hit by any creature. This was fortuitous, as more than once absurdly low damage rolls saved the lives of one or another PC, and if the player hadn’t rolled it they probably wouldn’t have believed it.

It should probably be mentioned that the kitchen was made more disturbing when the dwarf made a sandwich.

Good times. Good times.

They forgot the fellow in the tree and, when they tried to set fire to the adventure location, were nearly undone. But, no, the dice went their way yet again! At the end of the session, before handing out swag, I was able to tell the adventurers that they were the first, since Nuth, to ever return from the House of the Gnoles.

Thursday, 15 June 2017

There WILL Be Swag.....

This Saturday at 401 Games in Toronto, I will be running Michael Curtis' excellent adventure, Gnole House. Swag is provided by Goodman Games. In addition, I have a print copy of The Revelation of Mulmo (the Tentacled Edition) that someone is going home with.

And that someone is not me.

Thursday, 8 June 2017

Once you realize that restrictions in fantasy actually strengthen that fantasy, all that remains is determining what your coherent vision actually is.

Saturday, 27 May 2017

Odyssey Con, Recap

Okay, it is well past time to talk about Odyssey Con, which I attended, along with Brendan LaSalle, at the end of April this year. Con attendance was high for a small con, but gaming attendance was low – largely, I think, because the convention was not set up to allow players to pre-register for games. Nonetheless, both Jeff Bernstein and Forrest Aguirre managed to make it out to play, as well as several people new to Dungeon Crawl Classics.

Full Disclosure: J. Laakso, Secretary and Webmaster of the convention, is also my brother.

Thanks to the generous contributions of Goodman Games, Shinobi 27 Publishing, and Purple Duck Games, Brendan and I were able to spread a certain amount of published Dungeon Crawl Classics wealth around to players, and the convention was able to do a draw for other items – including a Dagon Hardcover of Angels, Daemons, andBeings Between Extended, Otherworldly Edition that had been signed by both myself and co-author Paul Wolfe.

My brother also runs/owns Vault 0, which creates and distributes clothing items for cosplay, as well as some gaming items, such as this pirate-themed dice bag, which I picked up while at the convention. I use a Duluth Trading Companysix-pocket parachute tool bag for a dice bag, which can carry enough dice to kill a small bear. 

The Jolly Roger dice bag will allow me to carry a smaller amount of dice for quick gaming, or when I don’t want to have to carry a huge dice bag around at a convention. This last wasn’t a problem at Odyssey Con, but at Gary Con my hotel room was not even in the same building as the convention. The construction is durable, making it somewhat superior to most of the other dice bags I’ve used in the past. Also, the image on it allows the PCs to know what they are in for! 

Everyone at the convention was friendly, and I had a great time. Nix, who was in charge of the gaming aspect of the convention, was an excellent host. Unfortunately, no pictures from the Mad Scientist room party, wherein it was demonstrated that my nephew Stefan can make a good Rum and Coke even if he is forced to use Pepsi.

Some highlights from the judge's position at the table:
  • TPK in The Imperishable Sorceress after the PCs one-shot the demon and deal with Ivrian. They are killed by waspmires because they want to leave no area unsearched.
  • For the first time ever, running The Arwich Grinder, PCs engage in a serious conversation about worshiping the giant invisible baby.

Some highlights from the player's side:
  • Our band (Haggis Sack) is broken up as the sound engineer from the Isle of Skye won't be rejoining us today. His wee homunculus Mini-Me gets in a last gibe, however, and also manages to rescue my character.
  • Glory or a TPK hinge on a single die roll in Hole in the Sky. Glory is not what the dice have in store!

You can read another take on this convention here.

Wednesday, 5 April 2017

In Praise of the Artists

I spent a lot of time at Gary Con talking to people who either enjoyed my writing, or were polite enough to say that they did. Of course, no adventure is just the writing. There is always the art. 

(In Dungeon Crawl Classics, that art might include the cartography, but that would be a different post.)

I have now worked with a number of publishers in this little community of ours. 

Regardless of who I am working with, one of the real joys of writing adventures is seeing how the artist(s) involved interpret my words. 

Sometimes, to be honest, the words are pale in comparison to the artistic vision of the people who bring these thoughts to visual life.

Seriously, there is satisfaction in finishing a project. There is certainly satisfaction in getting paid for it. But it is when I finally have the chance to see the words mesh with the art that everything falls into place for me.

Other authors may be different. I can't say. Nor do I think that there is a "right" way or a "wrong" way to enjoy this process of creation. I just wanted to post a big "Thank you!" to all of the artists who have helped make my work look good over the years.


Thank you!

I hope that it is clear that the art in this post is representational, but the inclusion (or lack thereof) of any given piece isn't meant to call out specific artists.

I am grateful to anyone who has ever tried to make images out of my words!

Now, here's the contest: Can you name the products that these images come from? There are images from 12 products. 

The first person to name them all, in the comments, will receive a POD coupon for Dispatches Vol IV from me as soon as the print version is available. All you need to do is pay postage!

(Well, and make sure I have your email address linked to Drive Thru!)

Sunday, 2 April 2017

Gary Con, Extended

Gary Con IX was the first large convention that I have been to in many long years - over a decade at least. What a fantastic time! Inevitably, I am going to fail to mention some people or some events, partially because I am still recovering and partially because there is a limit to my abilities as a writer. Here we go, though...a more extended version of Gary Con events.

(On second thought, I lie....Nexus Game Fair in Milwaukee last year was pretty damn big, and I got to meet and hang with Brendan LaSalle there! It just goes to show, though, that I am going to make mistakes in this report.)

Thursday: Arrived at the hotel with my son, Mike. Because we were late to book, I had to use the overflow and get a suite at the Timber Lodge. I had imagined pick-up gaming in the room (it included a table seating 6), but that never came to pass. Too bad, in a way. I had packed more than enough material to run another 3-4 games.

Dropping by the Goodman Games/Black Blade Publishing booth, I met with Jon Hershberger and signed a raffle copy of the DCC core rulebook.

At 2 pm I ran a playtest of Escape from Terror Island, which seemed to go pretty well. Included at the table was none other than Thick Skull's Stephen Newton, who had pictures taken.A good thing, too, as I had failed to take any.

That night, after the game, Mike and I met with Joseph Goodman, Harley Stroh, and Jen Brinkman, and went to dinner at the Pub Next Door....which was excellent and crowded with Con-goers and locals alike.

That evening Mike and I hung out at the bar for a bit, and were witness to Doug Kovacs running a game of Dog Storm. The game was in process when we arrived, so we didn't play, but instead drank Spotted Cow and talked to other gamers.

Friday: I ran two games: a Gnome Jambalaya playtest at 10 am and Stars in the Darkness at 2 pm. Among the people at my tables were David Baity and Clint Bohaty, who are certainly known to the DCC community. David Baity kindly brought be a Dark Trails thermos cup, dice, decal, and cup holder.

Please realize that, although I am only mentioning a few of the people at my tables (and largely because I am name-dropping), I got to game with a hell of a lot of great people not specifically mentioned. The tables were few, the gamers were fun and engaging, and I hope most of us enjoyed ourselves!

Between games, I tried to locate Paul Wolfe, both because we have had a cordial online relationship for a number of years, and because I wanted to get him to sign a copy of Angels, Daemons, & Beings Between which will be a raffle prize at Odyssey Con at the end of April.

We were able to get in on Dog Storm for that night, and Mike ended up winning. When we were on the edges the previous night, it had sounded as though people were having a lot of fun. The reality was even more fun. Almost all of my characters (I think all, but I say "almost" in case I forgot something) were taken out by dog storms or cosmic debris.

Saturday: I woke up late, and so only got into the tag end of What's New With Goodman Games....but not too late to see Doug Kovacs stump the Dark Master with Lankhmar lore. The kickstarter went live.

My only game for Saturday was The Revelation of Mulmo, scheduled for 10 pm to 3 am (we ran over), so I had plenty of time to hang around the convention area before that. I was able to have a longer conversation with Doug Kovacs, as well as see and discuss his original art. I met Erik Tenkar of Tenkar's Taven. I was finally able to catch up with Paul Wolfe, as well as his family. I spoke with Reid San Filippo, Forrest AguirreScott Swift, Adam Muszkiewicz, Bob Brinkman, and others. It was all a bit of a whirl, and I apologize to those I haven't called out specifically. I had a short interaction with Michael Curtis. Somewhere in there I met Jobe Bittman and Jim Wampler.

My game that night included the illustrious James V. West.

I almost forgot to mention that Mike won a backpack full of beer while I was running this game, easily beating the American competition in Beers of the World....heavy drinking being the Canadian national sport even more than hockey is! It should go without saying that being a giant of a man with biceps like my thighs also improved Mike's chances! Canadian honour was upheld!

Sunday: Up by 10 am to breakfast, check out of the hotel, and then run The Tomb of the Squonk for a full table, which included Jeff Goad. No one was turned away. A lot of "20"s were rolled by the players. Side trips to The Weird Worm-Ways of Saturn and The Giggling Deep were made.

After the convention, Mike and I had lunch at the Pub Next Door, where we again met with Doug Kovacs. It was a full convention.

Shout-Outs to the Players Who Signed Up for My Games

If you're not listed, let me know in the comments. If I met with you at the Con, but my overworked brain left you out of the above report, say "Hi" in the comments. Especially for the 0-level funnels, because I would like to make sure that you get the playtest credit you deserve!

Escape From Terror Island: Richard Mundy, Don Porter, Chris Ellis, Ken Austin, Jeff Bernstein, and Joshua O'Conner-Rose.

Gnome Jambalaya: Jon Steelman, Becky Banner, David Baity, Clint Bohaty, Karen Johnson, Charlie Brashear, Todd Brashear, and David Caulkins. (Chris Ellis was on the waiting list, but I can't for the life of me remember if we made room or not....?)

Stars in the Darkness: Richard Mundy, Mike Bolam, Chris Ellis, Joshua O'Connor-Rose, Christopher Turner, Matthew Turner, Justin Bowers, and Dave Crimm.

The Revelation of Mulmo: Dave Bresson, Nathan, Steph, James V. West, Andrew Moss, Jeff Bernstein, Trevor Hartman, and Joshua O'Connor-Rose.

The Tomb of the Squonk: Jon Steelman, Jeff Goad, Becky Banner, Richard Mundy, Tim Deschene, Jeffrey Laluc. The Waiting List included Eric Lopez, Mike Bishop, Chris Ellis, and James Smith. I tried to accommodate all comers.

Recommendation to the Con

On the "Players Wanted/Table Full" stands, include something to indicate what game is being played. Especially if you need players!

Tuesday, 28 March 2017

Gary Con IX

Gary Con was last weekend, and a great time was had! I am still in Wisconsin, visiting family, but I would like to shout out to all the great people I met and gamed with and say THANK YOU! It was gratifying to have dedicated gamers willing to fill a table for a 10 pm - 3 am slot, and I hope that I did not disappoint!

I will almost certainly return next year (barring some emergency), and try to work my schedule so that I have more time to hang out with people.

To the player in Tomb of the Squonk who lost his dice - I have them. Give me a shout and I'll make sure that they get back to you.

Again, great Con! Thank you!