Monday, February 13, 2017

Events Submitted for Gen Con

Title: Fane of the Froghemoth
Short Description: To raid the lost temple in the swamp and steal the riches of the faceless priests, you have to sneak past their god, a gigantic, tentacled frog creature. Then your troubles really begin.
Event Type: RPG
Game System: Dungeons & Dragons
Rules Edition: 5th (Basic)
Minimum Players: 3
Maximum Players: 6
Age Requirement: Teen
Experience Required: Some
Material Provided: Yes
Preferred date/time: Thursday 1pm
Event Duration: 4 hours

Title: The Nightmare Tree
Short Description: Nobody stays long on the Stillman property outside El Dorado, Arkansas. Some disappear. Others are tormented by ghosts, aliens, or the image of a sinister tree that haunts their dreams.
Event Type: RPG
Game System: Vortex System
Rules Edition: 1st
Minimum Players: 3
Maximum Players: 6
Age Requirement: Teen
Experience Required: None
Material Provided: Yes
Preferred date/time: Thursday 7pm
Event Duration: 4 hours

Title: Archer: Something Something Danger Zone
Short Description: Nobody’s sure what year it is, but the Cold War is still a thing, Ray is a cyborg, and Mallory Archer is in charge of a spy agency called… Well, they’re still working on that.
Event Type: RPG
Game System: Vortex System
Rules Edition: 1st
Minimum Players: 4
Maximum Players: 8
Age Requirement: Mature
Experience Required: None
Material Provided: Yes
Preferred date/time: Friday 1pm
Event Duration: 4 hours

Title: Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Roleplaying Game for Tables
Short Description: Take the roles of animated fast food products or one of their neighbors in this off-the-rails RPG based on the late night cartoon.
Event Type: RPG
Game System: Bean RPG
Rules Edition: Modified 2nd
Minimum Players: 4
Maximum Players: 8
Age Requirement: Mature
Experience Required: None
Material Provided: Yes
Preferred date/time: Friday 8pm
Event Duration: 2 hours

Title: Aqua Teen Hunger Force Again
Short Description: Sort of a sequel to the 8pm Aqua Teen game, but continuity doesn't matter and we'll probably start over anyway, so feel free to jump in here instead.
Event Type: RPG
Game System: Bean RPG
Rules Edition: Modified 2nd
Minimum Players: 4
Maximum Players: 8
Age Requirement: Mature
Experience Required: None
Material Provided: Yes
Preferred date/time: Friday 10pm
Event Duration: 2 hours

Monday, January 16, 2017

Demogorgon Girl

Apart from a few comments about how it's important to me, I don't really talk much about writing. Gaming and traveling always seem like much more interesting things to blog about. On top of that, I don't really like to talk about writing. The really interesting stuff is all in the inner workings of whatever I'm writing. It's stuff I don't feel comfortable putting out there. I'm probably too tight with that stuff, but I can't help it. And the superficial stuff is boring and pretentious. But this time, before I go on with the gaming talk, I've got some writing stuff to talk about. If it's still boring and pretentious, oh well; I tried.

This year, I decided that progress on the novel, while steady, was much slower than it should be. To accelerate, I committed to working at least an hour on Throne of Gorgudai every day (with exceptions for some weekends and stuff like conventions). At least five days a week, in any case. I'm only two weeks in, but I'm happy to say that it's working so far. I even kept up while I was smashed flat by the flu last week. The great thing is, if I worked on it even a little bit the day before, I'm already tuned in when I start working on it again. I don't have to take a lot of "where was I?" time to get started.

And where am I? The main characters, mostly allies of convenience so far, have started to come together more in this chapter. With sections from Seisha's perspective and the current one from Shao Tsang's, I've finally given everybody at least one chance to "talk." They've explored a new town, developed some new tricks, and detected an impostor. They even got to fight a giant shapeshifting eel. And, if you're paying attention, you might find out who killed Kasmordo. Of course, you're not paying attention because you can't, since I haven't let you read it, but anyway.

Elvismas 2017 was one of those not-writing weekends. Even though it was in Cleveland and we did all the gaming at Weird Realms, we still got rooms in a hotel alongside the out-of-towners for after-game hangouts.

Beckett ran the first event, Blaspheming Trials of the Goetic Dawn. We played novice magicians applying to become the next apprentice of a wizard. Beckett used his own rules and had lots of neat tricks with language cues and picture cards to let us experiment with spells. We caused all kinds of mayhem and destruction, and even ended up summoning an Old One at one point. Maybe two. I think it actually was two. And that went about as well as you'd expect. I think everybody survived, though. Sort of. Not many of us got out without being turned into demon goats or talking axes or something.

Saturday afternoon (and evening), I ran Demogorgon Girl. Tom had dubbed this "Satanic Saturday" and originally asked me to run something with Orcus. Because I answered, "I've always been more of a Demorgorgon girl," I was given that title to work with. It was his birthday, so I did my best to go along.

The game started abruptly in the middle of a fight with some perytons on the slopes of Mount Ngranek. The heroes only slowly discovered that they were in the Dreamlands and that they were really modern psychics trying to resolve a difficult possession by leading the demon into this sub-reality where it would only be one mad god among many. They were pursued by Demogorgonish monsters (and, at one point, the demon itself) to the Enchanted Wood, where they hoped to take the steps back to reality. They also got to negotiate with cats and zoogs and stuff. The forest had been webbed over by baby-headed giant spiders but they fought (and crept) their way through.

The steps didn't return them to the reality they expected, but they did find themselves back in their real world roles, without special powers and with only a few hit points. They did, however, have moon rubies, little tokens I had been giving out as rewards for good play during the rest of the adventure. Each ruby allowed them to use one special ability from their fantasy selves for one round. They needed these because the girl's sleeping spirit was guarded by her corrupted alter ego. The actual demon had been trapped in the Dreamlands, but they still had to free her from the part of herself that had been tempted. This being D&D, they did that by fighting it.

One of the characters was killed in the fight. Another, particularly enamored of her druidic powers, refused to finish climbing the steps and returned to live in the fantasy world. The rest woke up. Tom was going to GM a game too, but mine had run a little long and he was ready for the after-party, so that was...

Monday, December 19, 2016

2016: An Extremely Volatile Year

I guess let's start with the bad.

Everybody talks about all the celebrities who died this year, which... yeah, whatever. I was a little bummed by David Bowie's death, but the others were just names. I mean, I don't want anybody to suffer or die, but they do, all the time. If it's not somebody I interact with, I'm not going to give a famous person's death any more time than any other stranger's, even if I admire their work. Usually. I'm not sure why Bowie was an exception, so I'll just leave it there.

I don't even wanna talk about the political clown show. In day-job news, the company I work for -- that I liked working for -- was bought out by one of the most enthusiastic consumers of those inspirational slogan posters. Yay, mergers, right? Maybe it's for the best; I was probably getting too comfortable with this job. 2017 promises all sorts of messed-up authority figures to keep me... I need a word with positive connotations... let's say "energized." 2016 wasn't all bad, though. It actually had a pretty generous share of awesome, too. I just wanted to get this stuff out of the way first.

For one thing, I went to Hawaii. That was pretty cool. I was surprised that they didn't have seagulls, but they do have feral chickens. Seriously, chickens everywhere, like they own the place.

On the way back from Carnage this year, Tom and I stopped at Niagara Falls, which I had never seen before. There was more to it than I expected. It's a really nice park.

I skipped Gen Con this year for a variety of reasons which aren't really worth going into, but it was still a good year for gaming. The Scrap Pile campaign will probably end up slowing down a bit. I don't think it's dead -- I hope it's not dead -- but, even if it is, it was a great ride. Curtis's Dungeons & Dragons campaign has been fun, too.

I had something of a gamemastering crisis early in the year through the summer. I just didn't feel comfortable with the convention games, somehow. After a successful Carnage, though, I'm pretty sure I'm back in the groove. I've had the opportunity to run some D&D and I rediscovered the joy of the Vortex System. It's my current favorite for scenarios that aren't D&D or four-color super-heroes. I always liked it, but worried about turning everything into Doctor Who. It turns out that making some generic character sheets went a long way toward fixing that problem. We'll see if it holds.

A friend opened up his own store, Weird Realms. I'd probably support it just to help Beckett anyway, but, the truth is, I've got some selfish reasons for wanting it to succeed. I've been really enjoying gaming there and I've picked up some cool stuff that I might not have found otherwise.

I'm not sure I'd ever have gotten around to running Keep on the Borderlands again, if not for Beckett's multi-system B2 theme. It looks like a stable core of regular players is forming, so this could turn into a whole World of Greyhawk campaign. That's something I've often daydreamed about, but never had much hope of actually bringing to life.

And, hey, remember that Qalidar supplement I was working on, then said don't hold your breath for? I finished it! It felt really good to finally get that done. You can check it out on the network of tubes at Amazon or DriveThruRPG, and it should be in brick-and-mortar stores sometime in January. Next up is a "monster manual" type book to consolidate all the Qalidar qritters and publish the ones that still live only in my project files.

Throne of Gorgudai, or whatever I end up calling it, is still moving along. I'm up to their "little shopping trip." That could be somewhat misleading, though, because I moved a few of the early adventures around to fit the story I used to tie everything together. Yes, there is a story. I've fleshed out quite a bit of the plot, and I'm really happy with how it has evolved.

More to the point, though, I've not been a terribly diligent worker. I can't even blame the gaming, because there's plenty of time that just kind of evaporates without any of that. I do keep poking at the book and have made quite a bit of progress that way but, if I had been hired to write this book by someone else, she probably would have fired me by now. I'm thinking I need to do the schedule thing and come up with some time of day that's sacrosanct as writing time. It wouldn't take much. Even an hour every day would make a difference... which probably tells you more than I should admit to about how hard I've been working.

So yeah, the plan for 2017: Like I said, I need to schedule a daily routine for working on the novel. Wouldn't even have to be a tough routine. Just something. And I'll most likely spend a weekend at some point banging out that monster book for the Qalidar game. I should probably commission a cover, first. Ooh! I wonder what I'll do for the Gorgudai cover! No, no, NO -- write first; think about pictures later! I guess I also need to put together a bug-out bag in case the Twitter King and his Cabinet of Horrors keep on the way they're going.

Happy (almost) New Year! Here's some seagulls. Seagulls are cool.

Thursday, December 01, 2016

Realms and Borderlands

I mentioned a while back I was going to be running Keep on the Borderlands at Weird Realms using 5th Edition D&D. It was supposed to be part of a theme, but I think everybody else who ran games ended up just doing their own thing. It did happen, though. I had a lot of fun and have put a second and third session on the calendar.

Only two people showed up for the first session, a guy roughly my age and a teenager. I don't know if they want their names bloggified, so I'll call them Don and Dale. Don had played AD&D back in the day, but not much if any since. Dale was new to the game, but owned the 5e books, was familiar with the rules, and had already made a character.

Because I wanted it to work as a one-shot as well as a potential campaign opener, I started them out as prisoners of the hobgoblins in the Caves of Chaos, rather than in or near the Keep. Incarcerated along with them was a gnoll who I figured would be fun as the unreliable ally. The two humans freed themselves from the manacles first and then Dale's warlock murdered the helpless gnoll for temporary hit points and XP. I mean, sure, it was a gnoll, but holy crap.

Don's fighter did his best to reign in the impulsively amoral warlock and they proceeded to look for their stuff and escape. They had made a lot of noise with screaming gnolls and such, so the hobgoblins had not only organized, but even sent someone to get help from a nearby ogre. Because of this, they didn't get to do much exploring (more running and hiding), but they did find their gear and escape alive. After the appalling opening move, they both played it pretty smart.
Afterwards, it struck me how... I don't know... concrete, the whole thing felt. I had a really strong sense of the tunnels and the noises and the hiding and fighting. I suppose part of it was that those things were more important than usual to the characters. I think I also got really into it because I've never played this module as a grown-up before. Well, I haven't played it straight, anyway. I did a few sessions a while  back where universe-hopping sci-fi characters went to the caves for... reasons, but that's not really the same thing.

So anyway, yeah, I'm gonna run with it. Hopefully the two guys from last time will be back and we can pick up a few more, but whatever.

Saturday, November 12, 2016

The Rise and Fall of Carnage Royale and the Spiders from Mars

Hey, at least I didn't call it "Carnage Royale with Cheese." But yeah, no. There's no reason this title should make any kind of sense. I just felt like doing it. And it only gets worse from here. I don't mean Carnage; that was awesome. Just my weird, rambly blog.

My brain hurt like a warehouse. It had no room to spare. I had to cram so many things to store everything in there. And all the fat-skinny people, and all the tall-short people, and all the nobody people, and all the somebody people. I never thought I'd need so many people.

I've almost had too much gaming lately. I was in a Crawlspace game the week before, then I ran my games at Carnage, then I was in this really awful LARP on Tuesday where we pretended to take part in our own government, and now I've got another one with strangers coming up at Weird Realms tomorrow. I guess it's today now. Damn. After that I think I'm playing in Curtis's D&D Hangouts game, and then the Icons game picks up again. But enough about cramming stuff into my brain. This is about Carnage.

When you climb to the top of the mountain, look out over the sea, think about the places perhaps, where a young man could be. Then you jump back down to the rooftops, look out over the town, think about all of the strange things circulating round.

We almost always take the trip in two days. We could handle doing it in one, but this way it's more of a vacation. On the way we listened to some Bowie albums and I worked on the private Conspiracy X game I had coming up Thursday night. Well, sort of Conspiracy X. I started there, then I changed the rules to the Vortex System and threw in stuff from Qalidar. Although I have a couple of minor gripes with Unisystem, the main reason I changed it is that I'm really comfortable with Vortex, and I'm getting to the point where switching around wears me out.

Anyway we eventually got to Killington. Once we had our luggage in the room, I sent out the number so everybody could get there for the game. Steve and Matt showed up before Tom had even parked the car. Tyler was there shortly after, so I smashed his beer on the floor. Matt left because he hates me and Ray joined us before too long, so we got to gaming.

I'm an alligator. I'm a mama-papa coming for you. I'm the space invader.

It started off as a UFO hunt, but the team stumbled across a cryptid (dubbed "the snakotter" by H.P. Marlowe after seeing it swim away) in the swamp and, with the help of some locals and a fan boat, they started tracking it. This led them to a confrontation with Grey aliens who were abducting cryptids for experimentation.

Also, the whole "Grey" thing turned out to be an illusion that concealed giant parasitic mantis-wasps with psychic powers and the UFOs were really moving portals.

Then the loud sound did seem to fade. Came back like a slow voice on a wave of phase. That weren't no DJ; that was hazy cosmic jive.

Tyler gave us a couple of room numbers where the pre-con party might be, then went off to get some fresh glassware. We were advised to go to "whichever one is open and noisy" or something like that. We found one that was open and had a group chatting about Spider-Man. Tom pitched in the tribute of beers he had brought for this purpose and we started hanging out and drinking. Tyler seemed to be taking a long time to show up.

After some milling about, Tom said this was just a bunch of teachers and he was going somewhere else. Swimming, maybe. I don't remember. I didn't think much of it; Tom grousing isn't the sort of thing you stop the presses for. He had, in fact, already begun his weekend-long rant about our couch being too short. The party was kind of subdued, but I figured it would pick up eventually. Still no sign of Tyler, though.

Eventually, someone clued us in to the fact that we had wandered into an after-party for the teachers' convention that was just ending. I texted Tom to let him know and he insisted he had already told me this, but that wasn't what I heard. We threw some smoke bombs and ran for the other party, where a much wider selection of booze and boozers was available. We lost Ray in the escape. I was afraid for a while that he had been eaten by angry teachers, but I saw him again Friday or Saturday so I guess they didn't hurt him too badly.

I had to phone someone so I picked on you. Hey, that's far out! So you heard him too? Switch on the TV; we may pick him up on Channel Two.

Anyway, that party broke up, so Steve and I went to find Tom. Tom was sitting on the bed in his robe, talking to Matt. Tom said he was just about to retire when Matt showed up looking for the party. Seems plausible enough. I'm not sure what else we talked about.

Friday morning was still foggy.

Eventually I had breakfast, achieved a vaguely functional state of consciousness and shuffled off to get my badge. I also bought a tee shirt, a Carnage Royale pint glass, and a Fistful of Carnage shot glass. Just because. Grabbed a souvenir poker chip, too, but I didn't bother with the program. Seems like I always end up wondering what to do with those when I get home.

Tom did Tom stuff, and then I think he was trying to take a nap while I was sorting my game stuff into the optimal backpack arrangement. He didn't seem to get why that's important. Sometimes I wonder if he's really a gamer at all. Zach showed up at some point Friday, fueling Tom's smoldering couch envy with his last-minute room.

Keep your electric eye on me, babe. Put your ray gun to my head. Press your space face close to mine, love.

Wandered over to the Snowshed for the first of my official games, a Doctor Who adventure called "Claws from the Clouds." There were five people signed up and a couple of others interested, but I guess when I couldn't promise anything before the people who pre-registered got their chance, they decided to find something else. We ended up with three: the ninth Doctor, Jack Harkness (before he was immortal), and Rose.

And it was freakin' perfect. I usually get good players for Doctor Who and, for that matter, I rarely have complaints about convention players in general, but seriously. They got into character smoothly and did a great job investigating the mystery. They even picked up on a traitor thread I hadn't really expected to use. Maybe it's just a matter of everyone being on the same page. This kind of story usually leaves plotlines that aren't explored and wanders into major developments that I have to wing because the players go in wildly unexpected directions. And that's fine, but it was really nice that everything just fell together this time.

Ziggy played for time, jiving us that we were voodoo.

Steve was wrapping up a game nearby, so I went over to babble at him. He didn't seem to be feeling well. Tom was still running his game, I think. I knew several of the people at the convention desk, but they were all busy, you know, running the convention and stuff.

I went to the bar for a bit and talked to... I think his name was Gordon. I knew him as Jack Harkness from the game. My energy drink was wearing off, though, and I suddenly found my own backpack to be very confusing, so I wandered off. Not sure what else to do, I picked up a jagged piece of metal and shuffled back to the room to carve some goetic symbols onto my belly. I hadn't had much chance to indulge this hobby, lately, so it was actually kind of nice.

I think I ran into Zach when I went to the front desk for gauze, but he had young people stuff to do. Then later Tom texted me that he was watching a Woody Allen movie or something and was sending Matt in my direction. As promised, Matt showed up a bit later with bourbon. Before long, Tom and Zach were with us. Maybe Steve too, but I don't think he stayed long if so. It's possible my sense of time was less reliable than usual.

There's a star man waiting in the sky. He'd like to come and meet us, but he thinks he'd blow our minds.

The conversation turned to perceptual filters and UFOs and all sorts of awesome stuff that should always be talked about late at night with chemically-enhanced brains. Somehow we ended up outside, where Zach and Matt smoked beside the giant propane tank. It was drizzling, but I had a hood and nobody else cared. We all wandered off to bed after that.

So where were the spiders, while the fly tried to break our balls? Just the beer light to guide us.

I only found out about this later, but it turned out that Zach had some trouble getting back to his room. After the rest of us went upstairs, he misjudged the number of flights he needed to climb and found himself in a "basement" of sorts, with a concrete floor and pipes and weird, disturbingly capacious side-rooms. Rooms without doors. My understanding is that some "Greys" found him and spirited back to his room... eventually. His recollections on the subject are questionable, however. It's possible the real Zach is still down there.

So inviting, so enticing, to play the part.

There was a thing called daylight, but I only heard rumors of its passing. Well, okay, I think it was still daylight while I was getting ready and watching Dark City. Yeah, I wish I could take credit for that irony, but the movie really was playing.

Anyway, there was some last-minute prep I wanted to get done for the Archer scenario ("Something Something Danger Zone") so I scribbled out those notes and notes and... I guess just sort of waited. I was a little anxious. I mean, screw up a standard adventure and, sure, it's not great, but screw up something that's supposed to be funny and everybody's staring at you like you should never have been born.

As it happened, nobody did that. Not in the game, anyway. In addition to the usual stuff, I had appropriated some cards from an Archer board game with quotes from the show. As each player worked the quote in, I gave them a Determination Point (I called them Groovy Bears) and another card. That kept the gags coming even when the plot slowed down. I have to admit, I stole this idea from Beckett and it worked really well here.

After the game, I hung out with Tom and Steve and Matt and somebody else for a while. Angelia and another Steve came by and we talked with them for a bit. I went to the bathroom, thinking I was probably going to suggest taking off because -- Oh, I forgot to mention that Matt had left his expensive bourbon in our room. So I was going to suggest going back to get it for him, but he was gone when I came back. I was told he went thattaway, so I did that too, catching up to him just outside the main hotel.

Jamming good with Weird and Gilly, and The Spiders from Mars. He played it left hand, but made it too far.

Eventually it was me, Matt, Tom, and Zach back in the room. Zach told us about his experience in "the basement" and it led to a whole conversation about the reality-warping power of air quotes and the non-existence of the corridor he had wandered into. Then, just for the heck of it, Zach, Matt, and I all went down there.

As we went down the stairs, Zach pointed out the abundance of dead flies and the reddish-brown patterns on the floor that suggested something being dragged along the concrete. Down in the hole, we found "laundry" and other "side rooms" and even the possibility that "humans" might be down there at that very moment.

Time takes a cigarette, puts it in your mouth. You pull on your finger, then another finger, then your cigarette. The wall-to-wall is calling, it lingers, then you forget.

Zach and Tom went to bed (not together, as far as I know). Matt and I tromped off to bug Steve, but he was trying to sleep too. We tried to "help" him wake up, but that just annoyed him for some reason. Then there was Scott & Petra's party and Andre's sinister contraption and that ended too and we were outside in the cold. Andre was briefly out in the cold too. I guess he was just passing through. Then there was the hotel lobby and the hallway. It's all kind of hazy, but I suppose it was "real."

I'm not even gonna talk about "morning." Tom also wrote some stuff about Carnage Royale. Don't believe his lies.

No, love, you're not alone, no matter what or who you've been, no matter when or where you've seen. All the knives seem to lacerate your brain...

Friday, October 28, 2016

Happy Birthday to Me

I got myself this cool Atari art book. It's actually just a coincidence that the pre-order came out when it did, but I'm still calling it my birthday present. Other people got me some other presents which I haven't opened yet.

This weekend I'm planning to play some Crawlspace in person and some D&D on Google Hangouts. The Crawlspace game was originally going to be at Weird Realms to celebrate the impending opening (which I'll have to miss), but I think it's been moved to somebody's house.

At some point I need to crank out the pre-gens for my Carnage games. I suppose I should also work up some outlines for the adventures I'm going to run. All I've got so far are teaser blurbs and good intentions. Sure, I've gone in with less and done all right, but Carnage is worth a bit of prep.

Or at least good intentions.

Friday, September 30, 2016

My Events for Carnage Royale

Here's what I'm running:

Archer: Something Something Danger Zone
Saturday 7-11
Icons Assembled Edition (modified)
Nobody’s sure what year it is, but the Cold War is still a thing, Ray is a cyborg, and Mallory Archer is in charge of a spy agency called… Well, they’re still working on that. More importantly, a rival agency, ODIN, is about to nab a high-value Soviet defector at a swanky party and Mallory wants to get there first to show them up.

Doctor Who: Claws in the Clouds
Friday 7-11
Doctor Who: Adventures in Time & Space
Above 31st century Venus, humans living in an aerostat colony have recovered a long-buried zero-steel vessel from the surface. One Silurian passenger has miraculously survived in suspended animation and been restored to life. Since then, there have been weird equipment failures and thefts throughout the station. To make matters worse, several groups of citizens have begun exhibiting strange cult-like behavior patterns.