Monday, June 20, 2016

All This Stuff

Back from Origins, although it was kind of drive-by conventioneering for me, this time. I didn't do much.

Even after cancelling Gen Con, I was a little short on vacation time this year, so I had to wait until Friday to head down to Origins. I had planned to run several events, and then cancelled them all. I heard later that people were still able to sign up for them, so my apologies to anyone who was disappointed.

There are a couple of things I've never liked about running convention games. The first is pre-gens. One of the games I was running was a Cypher System one, and, despite a number of ways in which this game is fantastically easy to prep, making characters for people to play is fidgety and time-consuming.

The other thing I don't like is teaching people how to play the game. Nobody ever knows how to play the damn game. Sure, most real gamers know how d20 variants work, but anything else is a struggle. The last time I ran Cypher, the general alien-ness of the expendable attribute pools took what seemed like an eternity to get through, and of course I had to explain every single cypher to them. The game itself was a lot of fun, once everybody (sort of) knew how to play but, when you're GM'ing at conventions, that despicable boulder rolls back to the bottom of the hill with every new session.

So yeah, this time I just couldn't stand the thought of it. I don't know where that leaves me for the future. I've been in kind of a mood lately, so maybe it'll pass and none of this will be a thing. It was a nice trip anyway. I think Origins will make an acceptable replacement for the morbidly obese Gen Con, if I end up needing a replacement.

Oh, and I bought some stuff and got a few other things in trade. Here's the loot I came home with:

Sunday, May 22, 2016


I think the worst of my addictions is my addiction to noise.

If I need to keep coffee flowing like the Spice, I'm in good company. If I use alcohol to get through social situations and I like to have a drink at the end of the day, who cares? If I sit down to relax or work and immediately turn the TV on for some background chatter, though, that can trip me up.

If the place is quiet, and my mind drifts, I reflexively conjure something to fill the void. Mostly, it's silly, useless stuff that I never even write down, but it's still my brain being creative. If my mind drifts with the TV chattering, though, it just drifts to the show and goes passive. Bad, bad, weak brain.

I'm not sure why it's so hard to break, considering that I love the results when I do, but it is.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Monday, April 11, 2016


This Friday, I had to cancel a session of my Scrap Pile campaign and I still feel rotten about it. I didn't expect to. I had a really good reason, so it's not like I just blew it off. Part of it was that a couple of my players seemed really bummed about it, but I think mostly it was about missing a fix. This is a drug I can't get anywhere else.

For the rest of the weekend, I spent most of my free time playing Champions (the MMO, not the pencil & paper one). I designed two new costumes and picked up a sidekick. I played with other people a couple of times, but mostly it was just me and Indy Kid. I couldn't tell the difference between the people and AI most of the time, except that the AI would wait for me if I paused to look at something that wasn't mission-critical.

I had some perfect opportunities to write, and I didn't take advantage of any of them. I also didn't do my stupid taxes, so that's still hanging over my head. I don't mind that the government asks for some of my money so it can, you know, govern, but I do resent that it demands my time. I can't think of any other service where I have to write my own bill, and can be prosecuted for making a mistake. Also, I don't see any reason why Ohio should be allowed to govern anything. I'd rather literally burn my money than give it to Ohio. Sadly, incineration was not an option on any of the forms I filled out when I got my job.

Digression? Don't worry, this whole post is one big mass of digressions. If you're looking for a point, you probably won't want to read any further. It's not going to get better.

So anyway, writing would probably have done me good. I could have done it if, at any point, I had bothered to sit down and say, "I'm going to write." I had ideas, even. I just couldn't bring myself to make that choice.

Oh, the reason I cancelled the game is that we've got a new cat. His name is Ninja. We didn't want a new cat. We already had too many. This cat has such a sad story, though. We had this neighbor -- Tom described her perfectly: "To her, kids are pets and pets are toys." Ninja was her cat. She and her kids coddled Ninja and played with him and convinced him he could trust them. Then they moved and left him behind. He cried at their door for a week after they were gone. We should have taken him in then, I guess, but we had too many cats. We did feed him, at least.

A few years later -- last week -- I was feeding him and noticed his eye was infected. It looked at first like it was gone, but that was just because everything around it was swollen. I thought it had gotten scratched in a fight. Ninja's had a rough time on the street. He's got tattered ears and odd bumps and scars. Several of his teeth are broken. There's a patch on his tail where the hair won't grow. He looks more like a pirate than a ninja.

So we grabbed him, wrestled him into a carrier, and took him to the vet. Turns out that, sometimes, cats get an abscessed tooth and the infection gets into their eyes somehow. The vet gave him some antibiotics and gave us some eyedrops for him. He's relatively good about the drops, but it's still a two-person job. We're taking him back this week to get the tooth taken care of. He's already looking a lot better. I think he's more upset about being locked in a room than about the eye.

Yeah, sure, we could find a shelter for him or something once he's all patched up, but he's been through that before. He's had people coo over him and tell him he's safe and then dump him like old furniture. I can't make him go through that again, even if we could get him into a no-kill shelter. I don't think the possibility ever crossed Tom's mind, either. Ninja has always been a sweet cat. He does this thing where, if you reach down to pet him, he'll raise up a little on his hind legs to bump your hand with his head. He prances when you brush him, like he's showing off a new 'do. He's a person. To me, I guess, kids are aliens and pets are family.

But I was talking about a super-hero game, wasn't I? I've stumbled into a wonderful balance with that campaign. The super-hero genre is pure fantasy, a wonderful escape. I've got a great group. Not only do I enjoy their company in or out of a game, but they're all creative people who do a great job bringing life to their characters. The game itself is an absolute joy. I hate to sound like an advertisement, but Icons balances ease of preparation with detail options perfectly. At least, it's perfect for me. I can get prepped and ready to go an hour or two before the game, or I can run it off the cuff and still not feel like I've taken shortcuts. It all just flows.

Those things all contribute to making this exactly what role-playing should be, a chance to socialize and be creative at the same time, to hang out with your friends and have a great story lingering in your mind afterwards. I think the fact that it's social gives it more life than an ordinary story, almost like a real memory. It kind of feels like that afterwards, like you and your friends really did go out and save the world fighting Baron Karza last weekend.

That's what didn't happen, and it's really throwing me off.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


I don't know. I guess I'll just share this chicken cow.

Monday, February 22, 2016

BASHCon XXXI: That's No Moon

BASHCon always kind of sneaks up on me. This year, I was especially busy with Throne of Gorgudai and behind the schedule I had set for myself, so I really didn't want to stop. I even cancelled one of the two events I had in mind so I could put it off longer. Also, to be honest, "The Nightmare Tree" never did come together the way I wanted it to. Its core ideas just wouldn't mesh. Even so, I barely got my pre-gens for Crystal Rifts done in time and kind of skimped on preparation.

Tom took off Thursday morning to pick up Randy and go to the "Pre-BASHCon Bash" he was hosting. I had to wait til Friday to avoid taking time off work. Unfortunately, Jerry had to bail at the last minute and Paul didn't show up until late, so the pre-BASH gaming didn't happen.

Friday night around 7PM, after defeating my phone GPS's attempt to abandon me in one of Toledo's less savory neighborhoods, I got to UT, picked up my badge, and went to find the crew. They were hanging around one of the game tables chatting. After we talked for minute, one of them remembered to tell me that Tom was waiting at Phoenicia to have dinner.

After dinner, Tom and I both jumped in on Beckett's Crawlspace game, Gimme Shelter. I don't think this one was part of the Jupiter Moon theme. We took the roles of mentally ill homeless people who have to face real horrors from beyond with no help from the world around them. I also got Paul to sign our copy of A Brief History of Gnolls.

I had driven directly to the convention, so Tom & I had two cars to get back to the motel. They took off a bit ahead of me, so I was surprised to find them not there when I arrived. Mystery solved: they had detoured to pick up a late night Del Taco snack. I rearranged my bags for the next day's gaming and dropped off to sleep.

I found it surprisingly easy to get up for pancakes the next morning, after which it was off to the con to check out the dealers and wander around. Nothing much grabbed me this year. I thought about buying some more dice, but none of them really spoke to me. We had a snack (again, Phoenicia) and moved on to my afternoon game.

I had a full table for The Crystal Rifts of Tartarus. Well, sort of. One guy showed up thirty minutes late. After I re-explained the rules and the background just for him, he played for an hour or so, then told me he had to leave because he had another game scheduled. Anyway, this was my test-drive of the Cypher System, and I thought it went really well. GM'ing combat usually gets a bit tiresome for me but, when one of the players rolled a GM intrusion against an almost-destroyed starshadow, I didn't even mind that splitting it into two completely healed ones made the fight last longer. I also had fun playing with elements of Qalidar without worrying about accurately representing any published details. And Pluto. Pluto is cool. Literally.

When I made the characters, I had left the equipment for them to pick and I had each of them roll for a random cypher at the beginning. I had been a little iffy on whether or not keeping up a regular supply of cyphers was worth the trouble, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. The initial cypher was a gadget. At the midway point, I also gave each of them a subtle cypher as an "inspiration" sort of thing.

GM intrusions were fun, although I probably should have used a couple more. Stat pools were fun. Simple stats for creatures and NPCs were awesome. Players doing all the rolling was fun. The only drawback is that the book is really heavy. I guess I could try GMing from a tablet, but I don't much like that idea. Still, I think I'm sold on Cypher as a primary vessel for random convention games. Besides being a fun set of rules, it's generic. A generic system doesn't feed me a bunch of assumptions about how the world is put together, so I'm not tempted away from my own inspirations.

After dinner (we're big fans of Phoenicia) and a high-five with the Quitters' Club (Jerry and me, for cancelling events), Tom played to a packed house for his Crawlspace adventure, and I joined Beckett, Jerry, Randy, and Liam for Beckett's Dungeon Crawl Classics scenario, Scream Bloody Gore. This was apparently inspired by an album, with various encounter areas patterned after the different songs. We spent all our time dealing with a village infested with zombifying curse-maggots. We weren't so hot at making friends, though, and had to resort to a charm spell just to avoid being burned alive by an angry mob.

Of course, late night Del Taco came next.

In the morning, I got the surprising news that Tom and Randy were going to go ahead and take off, because of their longer drive. It was weird, after being all bunched up together talking and laughing, to be suddenly and unexpectedly alone. Not that I mind being alone. I crave it, even, but the abrupt shift was disorienting.

While I was still getting ready, I also heard from Jerry, who said he wouldn't be at the con today, either. I packed up, checked out of the motel, and drove to what felt like a creepily empty campus. I was there more than an hour ahead of Beckett's start time, so I took one more turn around the exhibit hall, got some coffee, and found a cozy place to chill. I had my tiny laptop with me, so I started writing. I think I got around 300 words in. Not a lot, but not bad for found time.

I passed Beckett in the hall on the way to get my second giant cup of coffee. Players gathered, and the Jupiter Mining Company Disaster got started. This was a funnel adventure. We each played four characters, most of which were expected to die. The one you end up with, therefore, already has a backstory. It's a mechanic from Dungeon Crawl Classics, but we were actually using Savage Worlds rules. Our characters were all functionaries in a giant corporation who happen to be around when something blows up. I had plenty of real life experience with the characters I was playing, so that part was a lot of fun. I sometimes found it a bit draining to play four characters at once, though. I was a good corporate drone to the end, but everybody else joined the anarchists.

Beckett and I managed to get one more Phoenicia meal in and chat a bit about game systems while the organizers cleared away all the convention stuff. Then we cleared ourselves away for them and it was time to go home.

Tom's version is here. Don't believe his lies.

Update: Beckett and Jerry have blogged about it too.