Monday, December 09, 2013

Just For One Day

This Saturday past was Holiday Game Bash VIII, a big get-together or a small convention, run by North Coast Gamers. +Tom K and I spent the day celebrating that we could be heroes with +Jerry Teleha and a nice assortment of new people.

Tom and I headed over to the Rock City Music Hall a little after eleven in the morning. We were looking forward to checking out the games and spending time with Jerry, but not all that optimistic about our own events because we were running RPGs and, last time, this seemed to be mostly a board game crowd.
We were greeted inside by smiling hosts and a board with the "tour of games" logos on it. They've really got a great venue. The one we went to a couple of years ago was in a church and I ended up in a Sunday school room with tables and chairs that were made for toddlers. This time it was a big open hall with plenty of grown-up size tables and a restaurant/bar in the next room. We signed in, found Jerry, grabbed some drinks, and looked up our table numbers.

The role-playing games were in kind of a nook at the front of the hall. Tom's game was first up on my list. He was running a Qalidar adventure called "Corporate Raiders" and I was helping him out with the rules because, even though they're waaay on the light side, he's d20-challenged. We sat around the table for a while and were starting to think it would be a wash, but then Tom spotted an acquaintance wandering by and snagged him. "Corporate Raiders" was set up so that we started out as almost-retirees with no levels in any class. I based mine on Mallory Archer and John created an engineer named Wayne. I don't want to give too many spoilers, but we did eventually get to make our characters more adventure-y, which helped us survive in a world gone mad with Tom's pyramid-headed raiders and shiny glam warriors. Not exactly the kind of opponents I would have come up with, but it was fun for me to see Tom (or anyone) making his own thing out of my game.

We found Jerry at the bar and had a late lunch. The specials they had for the Game Bash were good and actually quite a bit cheaper than the regular menu. Jerry took off first for a game he was in. Tom & I followed after another round to set up for mine.

We were still fairly early, but there was nobody using the table before me, so we camped out. A guy came over and introduced himself. I think his name was Ben but, for reasons that will make more sense later, my brain insists on labeling him "Sherman Peabody."

The scenario was basically the same one I ran at Gen Con this year. As always, I tinkered with it a bit while we played. This time I left a little bit more a mystery to solve and threw in a bunch of machine-munching antroids. Jerry showed up about a third of the way on and we worked him in. He had a particular grudge against giant ant-like creatures from a bad Tunnels & Trolls experience. I don't know about them, but I had fun, and was especially gratified by their reaction to the "peel."

Next up was Tom's Crawlspace game. Jerry, Ben, and I stuck around, and several more people showed up in short order. One of them said it was the game she had been looking forward to all day. We had some great performances here, which seems to be particularly common with Crawlspace. Ben's crazy administrator (Sherman Peabody), a quirky and somewhat randy detective, an outraged grad student whose work had been stolen, and a couple of hedonists stumbled around the college campus and the surrounding town and turned a vampire mystery into a manic soap opera. (The vampire is on the cover, so I don't think giving that away is going to be a problem.)

And that's pretty much it. They were closing the place up when we left for a late night snack with Jerry.

Monday, November 25, 2013

The Weekend of the Doctor

Since I was watching "The Day of the Doctor" on Amazon Instant instead of cable, and had to wait a day to see it, I figured I'd make the most of it and turn it into a full weekend celebration. Starting Saturday afternoon, I watched one story from each Doctor as a warm-up for the new episode.
  1. The Aztecs - Not my first choice by far, but it was the only first Doctor show I had handy.
  2. Tomb of the Cybermen - One of my favorite stories from any Doctor.
  3. The Three Doctors - Seemed appropriate, considering what was coming.
  4. Genesis of the Daleks - A hard choice because there's so much great stuff in the Tom Baker run and I have a fair amount of it. I almost went with the "The Brain of Morbius" because of the tie-in with "Night of the Doctor," but the awesomeness of this particular episode was too much to resist.
  5. Resurrection of the Daleks - The other strong candidate here was "The Caves of Androzani," but this is another good one and I thought it would be a fun pairing with number six.
  6. Attack of the Cybermen - I was tempted to go with "Vengeance on Varos," another of my all-around favorites, but like I said, the story arc from the previous Doctor made this seem like a better choice. I wonder now if I shouldn't have picked one of the ones with the Valeyard, though. He was also the Doctor, after all.
  7. Ghost Light - Ace is one of my favorite companions, but most of the episodes she's in are just grodawful. This one is pretty crazy, but in a way I enjoy.
  8. Doctor Who (Fox TV Movie) - Didn't have much choice here, although I did follow it up with "Night of the Doctor." It's a pity Paul McGann didn't get more of a chance. 
  9. Dalek - Eccleston is my Doctor, so I kinda wanted to watch the whole season. "Dalek" seemed like the best single episode for summing up what's distinctive about this incarnation, though.
  10. School Reunion - Sarah Jane, K-9, and Mister Giles. How could I not? This one also stands out as one of the few Doctor Who episodes in which I wanted him to side with the villain. 
  11. The Name of the Doctor - I didn't pick this episode so much as a representative of the 11th Doctor (since I was about to watch another of his episodes anyway) as for the fact that it looked like it was leading directly into the new one.
I got through the first eight on Saturday and finished up the others Sunday morning. Well, technically it was Sunday when I watched seven and eight, but it was Saturday night to me. I don't have any special insights to share about Day of the Doctor. In fact, I go out of my way to avoid analyzing Doctor Who, at least until I've enjoyed it unfiltered a few times. I'm happy to say that it was lots of fun, though.

Saturday, November 02, 2013

Daydreams at the Bus Stop

In the midst of trying to cope with something that I can't change, I've found myself occasionally thinking about where I am and what I can do.

... and, after letting it sit in draft form for a week or so, I'm no longer certain where I was going with that. I still want to finish what I'm in the middle of, so that's something.

After all the work I've put into it, including releasing a complete if unsatisfactorily organized version of the game at Gen Con, I'm not going to abandon Qalidar. I'm a little frustrated that, while I was in limbo, someone popped up with a kickstarter for a game that seems to echo several of its concepts and themes, but that's no reason to stop.

When that other game finally comes out, I doubt that the similarities will turn out to be substantial, and I doubt even more that the person writing it is even aware that I exist, much less interested in ripping me off. What bugs me is that, when a coincidence (or maybe a zeitgeist thing) like this occurs, with a nobody like me and someone relatively famous releasing things that seem at first glance to be similar, the Internet loudmouths won't look into the history or even reserve judgement. They'll just do the only thing they're good at.

So yeah, I guess it's obvious this is bothering me more than it should.

Okay, back to work.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Not Enough

Michael, you deserve a real eulogy, a tribute that brings tears to the eyes of complete strangers. I don't have that in me. More than any whiny speech, you deserve to be alive, but I don't suppose that ever saved anybody.

I'm sorry, Little Brother. This is all I've got. You were the best friend I'll ever have. Whatever beauty I find in the world will be distant and faded without your eyes to reflect it for me.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Iron GM in the News

Lookee! Iron GM is in the mainstream news!

Heh.

Documents including disturbing photos of a dungeon built by a man who planned to torture and eat children were filed by federal prosecutors Tuesday. Geoffrey Portway, 40, pleaded guilty in May to distribution and possession of child pornography and solicitation to kidnap a child, according to the Boston Herald...

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/09/11/geoffrey-portway-basement-photos_n_3909842.html

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Gen Con 2013: All The Random Pieces

"It is a day so long in coming that I am uncertain how to celebrate it."
"Perhaps a quiet chuckle."
"Very well, then. Let us chuckle."

Gen Con 2013 was amazing. So many of the right things came together that the inevitable setbacks were hardly noticeable. In fact, I won't even mention them. Well, okay, I might, but just the ones that kinda make me laugh now that it's all done. Oh, and the weather! The weather was perfect. I couldn't have asked for a more pleasant weekend temperature-wise. (Click here for the musical accompaniment, but don't bother watching the video. Just come back to this window and read while it plays.)

Our first obstacle was Daci's scheme to keep us home by claiming one of the boxes. It was a clever plan, brilliantly executed, but somehow we found a way to deal with it. We loaded up the car and left Cleveland shortly after Tom got home from work on Tuesday. We took a new route, going past Toledo and then heading off through the corn fields to Indianapolis. The Machine says it takes twenty minutes longer, but it was a much more pleasant drive than the 71 to 70 route, partly, I'm sure, because we didn't have to go anywhere near Columbus.

Wednesday
We got going bright and early - before noon, anyway - had breakfast, rearranged some bags, and packed some stuff that we were borrowing from Jordan. We grabbed an early lunch at Acapulco Joe's, rented a dolly, checked in at the Canterbury, picked up all the badges for the GMs we were sponsoring, and I started setting up the booth while Tom disposed of the car and made his way back. We chatted with Eloy and John K. a bit in the process and invited them to our Old Home Eve at Claddagh.

Old Home Eve went well. We had a big table in a nice curtained alcove in a restaurant/bar with cool decor and good food. There was a revolving line-up of friends, friends-of-friends, and maybe one or two shape-shifting aliens at the table. It took awhile, but Mike and Amy finally fought their way through the I-70 traffic jams and joined us. Unless they were the shape-shifting aliens. You never know.

After the party broke up, Tom wandered off to drink some more with... I forget. Probably Caed-Robin, and maybe Jerry too. This was only Mike's second Gen Con and Amy's first, so we wandered a bit and I showed them around the convention center. It was my tenth year there, so, even when nothing is going on, the whole place is buzzing with memories for me. And I hate it when there's just one tiny little line hanging below the picture. There; that's a little better. I wonder why they put in so much image padding.

Thursday
I was in and out of the exhibit hall Thursday morning, but mostly I remember pressing Jordan into taking me to the post office so we could pick up the new Qalidar books. It seems fairly obvious in hindsight that, knowing it would be close, I should have had the books shipped to the hotel. Instead, I had them shipped to Jordan's house. Since he has a job and stuff (I know, right? The nerve!), he wasn't there the first time, so they had to be picked up at the post office, and he had to be there to do it because I hadn't thought to put my own name on the package. Maybe he still would have had to be there because it was his address; I don't know. Anyway, Jordan had a limited amount of time to run all over town, and was nice enough to sacrifice his whole lunch break shuttling me and my books back and forth so I could get them and some comfy chairs (another favor he was doing us) back to the convention center.

Life was much better once that was all settled. I picked up the D&D Next book I had pre-ordered (Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle) and got to have some good chats with several people who dropped by. I may or may not have snapped a picture of Peter Davison that I wasn't supposed to take. I met Brian, an old friend from many online chats and emails, in person for the first time. Nobody was asking about the demo sessions I advertised, and I never brought it up myself because the prospect had always terrified me, despite the fact that I came up with what I thought was a clever mummy-cult encounter quickie.

When the hall closed, we headed over to Champions. Mike, Amy, and I met Brian over there and tried to reserve a big table for everybody, but they wouldn't put us on the list until we had at least six people present, or, apparently, until Tom showed up at the other door and made the same request with an even smaller crew. Scott and Caed-Robin were added to the pile. I think that was it. The ever-dwindling menu is making our sentimental haunt less appealing every year, especially when you can get better food for the same prices just by walking a block or two in the other direction. I dunno. We'll probably still try to pop in there at least once a year. My geriatric bitching aside, the company was more than enough to make it a great dinner.

Friday
After a frantic breakfast quest with Mike and Tom, Friday kicked into gear with my first Qalidar session, an adventure which never really had a title because I had no idea what the scenario would be when I submitted it. It was, however, the untouched second half of the adventure I started at the last Dark Gathering. This year, we were right in the middle of the convention center, instead of off in a peripheral hotel somewhere. I loved this. Tom was less keen on it because it was harder to grab a beer mid-session and he had grumpy old man issues with the climate control.

I had a full table for this one and, apart from a few abortive attempts at subterfuge, they charged in guns blazing. That wasn't really what I had in mind but, since it was still a challenge and they were having fun, I just ran with it. They did have quite a collective talent for mayhem. The ascendant took to collecting faces from the Typhon Corporation's cyborg guards, and the karcist went wild reanimating everything he could get his hands on. I was pleased that the disjunction mechanic flowed at its intended pace, because I had tested it much less thoroughly than the other rules and was still a little worried about it. I had a great time, but I decided to pump up the difficulty in certain areas for future sessions, because some of what they did should have been nearly impossible, instead of just hard.

Mike had started his Powerful Tales superhero RPG an hour behind my game, so I wandered over to the next table to watch them finish up. The way this game works is not something I'd have ever thought to do. It has a phase where you find out what's going on in the larger world and allocate resources that's kind of boardgamish, and then an action phase that plays like a normal role-playing game. The three players not only looked like they were having fun, but all came back later and asked him to send updates as the game developed, so apparently it worked. Jerry had, as usual, a full load of zombie-choppers escaping from Toledo at the next table.

After a bit more booth-monkeying, Jerry came by towards the end of the day and informed us that they were selling dice rings for $5 to anyone with a GM badge. I got a shiny blue d20 one.

There was an interview for a podcast (the name of which I wish I could remember) and then Mike, Amy, and I met Jordan for drinks at Champions. I went back to the room for a bit and then it was time for Aqua Teen Hunger Force role-playing. I had my usual crew, plus Mike and one other player. Just like last year, I planned to get a picture and didn't, so you'll just have to imagine. The Aqua Teens, having borrowed Carl's two coolers full of beer to go camping in the Adirondacks, stumbled upon a meeting of the Love Mummy's hugging cult (the other players), and of course ranged across various other locations from the show until a Foreigner Belt mishap conjured a volcano under Carl's house and Frylock took Meatwad back out to go camping. Quote of the game: "Last time I saw him, Fry Man, he was straw deep in meat. Nobody should have to see that." That only took around ninety minutes, so we took a break and played another one. As always, it was awesome.

Saturday
Next day's function - high class luncheon. Wait. Sorry, that's from a song, isn't it? First up was my second Qalidar session. It had been sold out for some time, but only two players showed up. I think some of the others switched over to the evening one. Anyway, the two players I had were such great gamers that it didn't matter. Also, they loved the game. I'm sure that didn't have any impact on my assessment. Seriously, though, playing a mystic and an ascendant, they carefully scouted out their surroundings and came up with intelligent plans to put the odds in their favor. There were a couple of fights that were practically impossible to avoid, so I toned those down because there were only two of them. Apart from that, they pretty much took on the beefed-up critter strength as it was.

The other concession I made to their party size was that it was more of an information-gathering mission for a larger expedition to follow, so, once they found the giant hive facility in Katun and figured out how they were getting their goods, where they were shipping them, and who was behind it, we called it a win. The game had already run a little over, but we had all agreed previously to keep it going. Then they each bought a copy of the book and had me autograph it. I always feel a little pretentious doing autographs, but that's something I can live with. Unless you count Aqua Teens, this is the first time I've gotten such an enthusiastic response to a game. I'm just gonna enjoy it while I can.

I went back to the exhibit hall and sat around there for a while, then took off and roamed for a bit, found Mike & Amy, and went looking for some place to have a late afternoon meal. We weren't sure where we wanted to go, so we wandered around the streets, hoping for inspiration along the way. I was about to just take them to Scotty's when we saw Rock Bottom Brewery and decided to go there instead. We had a nice quiet chat about how well the convention was going, after which I went back to the exhibit hall to close down the booth. Ken came by to pick up a copy of Qalidar, but not much else happened. I went back to the room to watch TV and nap a little before my evening game.

My third and final Qalidar game started at 9PM. Well, my game by default. Curtis was scheduled to run this one, but he was AWOL from the whole show, so, not wanting to send interested gamers away, I covered it. There were four at the table, and Tom dropped a fifth player into the mix for reasons that seem to change every time it comes up. There was certainly room, though, and he turned out to be a good addition to the group, so I guess it doesn't matter. With five people, we had every character but the karcist in play.

I'm glad I did run this one, because this party's exploits were something to see. I love how you can run the same scenario three times and get three completely different adventures. This group combined the second one's sneakiness with the first group's larger size and wider range of classes. They started off abducting and interrogating the extras, which even without a great deal of cooperation, led them much more quickly to the facts they were after. This was also the only group to meet the stardust mercenary and find out that he would be more than amenable to deserting his employers for the right price.

Exploring Katun with similar care, they were also the only group to find where the dobbers actually slept. Having chatted up the locals and studied the way the compound worked, they spent quite a bit of time figuring out what kind of attack would cripple the operation, free the enslaved population, and keep the dobbers from rebuilding here. The resulting plan was a symphony of ambush, sabotage, and synchronized demolitions. And except for a couple of slips and one piece of bad information that they were able to work around, it played out perfectly.

Sunday
With no more events to tend to, I settled in at the booth. Tom and Ken showed up almost together if not at the same time. Maybe they had breakfast together or something. Anyway, Ken said he read the book and it was "weird beyond imagination," which I took as a compliment. Actually the most flattering thing to me was that he not only bought it, but read it right there at the convention. He also said it needed some jokes, which... okay. I'll have to take a look when I'm going over the final release and see if it's too dry.

Tom said I was throwing off his feng shui, so I left to shop with Mike and Amy. I found a nifty pendant with a fluorite crystal that was surprisingly cheap and bought that. Amy had become a big fan of the dice rings. I think Mike bought one more and she bought several. I have to admit, the percentage one she picked up is really cool. She also had me lead her back to where I got the crystal. We also went to see the statue of Lolth in the D&D room. I miss having the big D&D statues in the main concourse.

So, the final loot count included Ghosts of Dragonspear Castle, the d20 ring, and the crystal pendant. Kind of a light haul, but the convention itself was so much fun that a few souvenirs should be more than enough. I had intended to pick up 13th AgeNumenera, and a couple of random Doctor Who DVDs, but unforeseen circumstances made the additional expenditures unwise.

Back at the booth, we found Jordan, his girlfriend Amy (let's call her Indy-Amy to avoid confusion), Scott, and John B. along with Tom and Ken. I think this is actually where Ken said the stuff about Qalidar, but I don't feel like moving it. We cleared out the booth and boxed everything really quickly, and then hooked up again in the Canterbury bar for drinks. Everybody wanted to do something different for dinner. Jordan and Indy-Amy just ate right there. Luckily, we were able to come up with a compromise that annoyed everyone equally. Still, Tom and I had a nice dinner at Bourbon Street Distillery followed by a pleasant early evening walk back to the hotel, and I got to meet a friend of Jordan's who took a look through Qalidar and described it as, "the stuff of nightmares."

Other Bits and Pieces
On Monday, we pulled off a surprisingly successful car-shuffling and packing plan, then Tom, Mike, Amy, and I headed out to Acapulco Joe's for... breakfast? It was still pretty early, so they weren't serving lunch. It was kind of weird to eat pancakes at a Mexican food place, but everything else on the breakfast menu was revolting (the incomprehensibly popular "breakfast burrito" included), so that's what I went with.

And, sigh, that was pretty much it.

JerryTomEloyKen, and Scott are all blogging about the event, although not all of them are finished, and some of them have barely started. Some of my other friends also blogged about it, but it's against the rules to link to people I didn't see. More blogs will hopefully pop up at this link. As always, don't believe their lies.


Thursday, August 08, 2013

Early Comments on Qalidar

So hey, here's kind of a review for the Gen Con 2013 Preview Edition of Qalidar: Resistance, although the source might be just a teensy bit biased:

http://kopftnt.blogspot.com/2013/08/robinhoo-is-here-early-bus-to-qalidar.html

Yeah, I know.
But still, I had to post it.

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Gen Con Gamers Loved by Indy Restaurants


Always nice to find something like this.
"The insomniacs with the pointy ears and science fiction obsessions are the darlings of the Downtown restaurant servers. Indianapolis has a constant stream of convention traffic over the summer months, but the visitors that restaurateurs and their wait staffs love to see coming are Gen Con Indy’s. The reason: They’re fun and they are good tippers..."
http://www.indystar.com/article/20130718/LIFE/307180105/Gen-Con-gamers-win-Indy-restaurants-favorite-convention-visitors

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Ming's Throne

I had a dream that I thought of this wonderful post about the back of Ming's throne being a live tiger. I know, I know, but look, it sounded brilliant in the dream. Just go with it. So I ran to get my phone and hit the Twitter app (there's no G+ app for Windows Phone so that would be a pain) and started to type. Then my right eye went blind. As distressing as this was, I decided I wanted to finish typing before saying anything about it.

Then the font started screwing up. Who even knew you could change fonts in Twitter, right? It kept trying to post in this kind of ornate Gothic fantasy-looking thing. Apparently eager to drive home the absurdity of this situation, the dream switched my eye back on.

Shortly after that, I woke up, wondering if I would really delay calling for help with something that scary, just to finish typing a weird message.

Epilogue: I noticed that the pillow was covering my right eye. Obviously, both eyes were closed, so you wouldn't think it would matter, but I wonder if my dream was interpreting the difference in the amount of light as some kind of deficiency.

Monday, July 01, 2013

Learning to Surf


"I can't hold my breath anymore. I stopped swimming and learned to surf."

I'm down to that last-minute crunch on Qalidar. I should already be into layouts, but there are a few more changes that I've just got to get in. The funny thing, though, is that I'm still having fun.

Before I even got to this point with Peryton RPG, I wanted it to be over. I had already worked out all the interesting additions -the fun part- and I was left with the task of slogging through all the old familiar rules and adding all the magic missiles and orcs and flaming swords that I wanted to borrow from the Open Gaming Licence. I'm proud of what I did with that game but it is, after all, still just a stripped-down Dungeons & Dragons variant with some sprinkles I cooked up to give it its own color.

Qalidar is something else. It's mine. Sure, it's still based on the d20 core mechanic. It still has classes and levels and hit points. Unlike Peryton RPG, though, it's not trying to hold onto the flavor of something else. It's not a fix or a substitute. Qalidar has been creeping into my game sessions and my writing for the past twenty years. It finally poked its head into the outside world in 2008, but even that was just a start, one that I again pushed aside to work on other projects, other stuff that seemed more important or more practical because... I don't even remember.

But Qalidar was never an act of will; it was always just there. And that, I think, is why it feels so good to be giving it its own rules and an expanded treatment now. Don't get me wrong - it's not like I'm just scribbling down a stream of consciousness, but the creative part does feel more natural than usual, and the mechanical part comes together around it without much of a fuss. From the start, when my players and I stumbled across it in that D&D game back in the 80's, Qalidar always felt more like something I was exploring than something I was building.

Which I guess brings me back to the whole surf metaphor, although I actually don't know anything about surfing. Getting thrown about at random is not acceptable. I can manage swimming against the waves, but it's exhausting. I'd like to try taking a ride.


Monday, June 03, 2013

Carnage 2013 Events

Submitted my events for Carnage on the Mountain:

Hourglass Part II: Helter Skelter
This session is the second part of Hourglass, a two-part adventure, but you can easily jump in at this point if you want. The first part is Corporate Raiders, run by Tom K. Loney. Just when you thought you might get the inside of your beleaguered building under control, you lost the outside. What is all that stuff floating out there in the dark, anyway? And why is it coming toward you?
Qalidar: Resistance RPG
Day: Friday
Slot: 7pm - 11pm

The Cave of Crystal Souls
Far away from the rest of civilization, safe under the shoulders of a great mountain, is a village called Halscia. The people of Halscia have always lived simple, serene lives, untouched by the greed and violence that marred the outer world. But now the Halscians sleep restlessly, their dreams haunted by shadowy figures digging into their souls. Their village and their mountain have been infiltrated by an enemy they can't understand or even see.

Pinholes in the Curtain of Night
Bottomless wells inscribed with occult symbols keep turning up. You've seen portals like this before, but these "zodiac pits" have always been a rare and poorly understood phenomenon. Now, someone has either discovered that there are many more hidden zodiac pits than were previously suspected, or has found a way to create new ones. Some otherworldly miasma is boiling up from the depths, and its smothering grip tightens every time a new zodiac pit is uncovered.
Qalidar: Resistance RPG
Day: Saturday
Slot: 1pm - 5pm

The times aren't set in stone. What's posted here is just what I requested.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

A Dark Gathering II: Return to Maplewood

Just a few days ago, we had our second Dark Gathering hoot. Tom bussed out there early because he couldn't wait. I stayed up late prepping and packing Thursday night, then took off on Friday after work.
It was a fairly relaxing trip, all expressway and not much traffic. It had been a while since the last time I took a car trip alone, and it was kind of a nice opportunity to collect my thoughts and stuff like that.

I arrived in the middle of some big something-or-other with assorted teens (and a few great lumbering beasts that I took to be adults of the same species) filling up the parking lot and scuttling about underfoot. No problems, though. I grabbed my stuff and found Tom to collect my key. Somehow it was weird to Tom that I wanted to put my bags in our room instead of just dropping them where I stood and forgetting about them. Maplewood flubbed our reservation so that we got a regular room instead of one of the suites, but actually that worked out for the best. Andre still had one suite (the same one as last year) for his set-up, anyway.

Sweet Dreams Are Made of This
The adventure I had interrupted was Brandon's The Nightmare Sculptor, for his and Don's Time Shredders game. Upon returning, I watched him take Tom, Christy, and Don through the conclusion of what looked like a great time travel romp with a pretty creepy bad guy. Tom snagged a copy of the rules, and I'm looking forward to reading more about this world.

Who Am I to Disagree?
After finishing off the game, we chatted for a while over gin & tonic and then, once Andre's game was done, went over to the suite to start off the first (for me, anyway) of this year's after-parties. There we found Andre (well, obviously), Scott, Petra, and Dave. Dave had been here even longer than Tom because of some other travel arrangements. There was bourbon to be had, so I switched over to that. Grateful as I was for the opportunity to try something new, I still don't think there's a gin mix out there that wouldn't be better with vodka or rum. This one ran... Well, I don't know how long it ran. I was there until almost 5AM. Had an interesting discussion about level-based systems versus more granular advancement with Andre, Brandon, and, occasionally, Tom. I was mostly defending the utility of levels, but we all agreed that the classic "kill stuff to get smarter" model was, at best, silly.

Travel the World
Even though it wasn't until the afternoon, it still seemed awfully early when I staggered over to Scott & Petra's room to run my Qalidar scenario, Feel Good, Inc. for Tom, Dave, and of course our hosts. I had never gotten around to making characters for them, so it took a little while to adapt some pregens from another scenario, and a bit more time to explain the rules and the setting and the group's backstory.

Once it got going, the game went pretty smoothly. I was gratified by the enthusiastic reception the setting received. Thanks to my clumsy start, it ran a bit long and I had to wrap it up before they saw any of the wilder sights, but the story conveniently resolved itself without my help, right on schedule. When I've run this game before, it's always been the Walk the Spiral playtest campaign which, oddly enough, isn't all that representative of the atmosphere I'm going for (long story). This one was much more Resistance, and has convinced me that this game really is ready to go. Now I just have to finish putting it into a form that people other than me can use.

And the Seven Seas
Andre's crew wasn't done yet, so we left them a message and played a game of live action Frogger to get across the street to Tully's. More crunchy fun followed as we tried out the social interaction mechanics of the Dinner Time RPG in a thrill-a-minute table-reserving scenario. After several failed intimidation rolls, we finally got lucky and were escorted to our table. Two tables, actually. Probably the only two tables in the whole building that could not be pushed together. This game is too hard.

The hipsters from Andre's game showed up fashionably late and refused to speak to the rest of us. That's probably not true but, on the way out, Tom spotted an airport shuttle from the Maplewood. The driver had stopped for a bite on the way back and obliged us with a lift across the street. The others came out of the building just in time to see us being carried away in a van.

Everybody's Looking for Something
So Scott, Petra, Tom, Dave, and I reconvened in the same room, along with Brandon and Don, for Scott's Lost on Echo Mountain. Would have been funny if I had done the scenario I was originally planning to run, because then we'd have had two "weird abandoned resort" adventures back to back. Scott's was a lot of fun, though, and his crazy real-world developer puts my crazy real-world developer to shame. It had a great setting, an interesting climbing sequence with just enough ominous hinting to build the tension, and a cool twist. I probably shouldn't say more than that because he's thinking about publishing it. If he does, buy it.

Some of Them Want to Use You
Petra and Scott put out a party spread with various cheeses and crackerses in the suite. A whiskey buzz is so much nicer than a beer buzz. Tony and Stephanie were also there. They actually showed up earlier, but I never did get to talk to them much. They were always in other games or across the room or something. Anyway, the conversation was again excellent. I'm fairly confident that it was excellent. I don't remember much of what was said, just a sort of general mood. I didn't manage to snag the comfy chair this time, though, so I got sleepy earlier and left around 3AM, long before the party broke up at... whenever.

Some of Them Want to Get Used by You
I had some trouble getting up Sunday morning but I still managed to shamble my way into The Inheritance, another of Andre's infamously immersive "RPG Theater" events. I was half an hour late, but they didn't start without me.

It was just me, Christy, and Tom playing in this one. Brandon and Don were already on their way out, and the others were playing Dark Harvest with Dave. Our characters were members of a close-knit family on their way back to their ancestral home to find out what the trustees of their estate have in store for them. It had what I thought was an unusually upbeat ending, but not everyone agrees with me on that point.

Some of Them Want to Abuse You
We were going to go to the Carnegie place in the hotel, but they were closed for the day. That's right, the hotel restaurant was not open for dinner. So, Tully's again. While we waited for the other group, Tom wandered off and took a nap. I stuck around in the suite and chatted with Christy and Andre. Then I woke Tom up and we all went to Tully's.

Some of Them Want to Be Abused
Back from Tully's, we split up for another pair of games. I went with Andre, Christy, Scott, and Petra to play in Tom's Crawlspace adventure,  Cigarette. I'm not sure why it was called that, apart from the fact that Tom put an actual cigarette (which he had just bummed off our waiter) on the table.

Andre and I played cops investigating the exorcism-related death of a girl whose grieving parents were played by Scott and Petra. Christy was the exorcist. The system seemed to work well, and the actor/character structure could make for some cool campaigns, but I'm sure Tom will talk more about that. Andre stole the show with his tinfoil-hat-folding interrogation technique. Christy's Hebrew expertise came in handy when her character was possessed and spirit-babbling.

Movin' On
First, let me take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude for the sacrifices made by all our brave fans of Douglas Adams, without whom we might not have the long weekend that makes Dark Gatherings so awesome.

So yeah, the wrap party... Well, for one thing, I got the comfy chair this time. Damn, what else? I don't think I said much, just sort of sat back and took in the chatter. Except I guess I didn't do such a great job of taking it in, or maybe I did but I misplaced it later. Whatever, it's gone now.

And of course Tom has a blog too. Click the link if you want, but don't believe his lies. My link only goes to the first of a series of posts he's doing on this Gathering, though. I'm sure you can find the others on your own.

Great weekend. Can't wait to do this again.





Wednesday, May 01, 2013

Okay Delay

So, about that novella I was working on...

I ran up against a deadline I set for myself a few weeks back, so I've put it aside for now. I was really close to the end, but "really close" could drag out through several iterations of, "okayokayokay, now seriously I'm extra-super-amazingly close" and dribble its way into next year if I'm not careful. Sometimes I still peck at it a little on the bus ride to work, but not much.

That's okay, though. For one thing, the extra distance I'll get from stepping away for that long will make it easier to give it a good edit. For another, digging into the projects I'm putting together for Gen Con this year has just been amazing. It's been a long time since I've enjoyed writing this much. This is going to be a fantastic summer!

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

New Qalidar Art

Click here for Alejandro Gutiérrez Franco's preliminary sketch (thumbnail at right) of the karcist, a class that uses the forms of ceremonial magic to extract and bargain with the hidden mind of things, which can involve animistic spirits, demons, and even computer viruses.

A limited run preview edition of Qalidar: Resistance RPG, with an adventure which won't appear anywhere else, will be available from Peryton Publishing at Gen Con in August, 2013.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Heroes and Ashes

When they first started talking about creating a successor for City of Heroes, I was sure some people would just flail around, talk big, then decide that it's an impossibly big job and disappear. Sure, that could still happen, but they've come farther than I expected. I'm particularly impressed with the way +Missing Worlds Media is going at this. It won't be City of Heroes, but maybe it'll be something.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

BASHCon XXVIII: Free Hugs

Free Hugs
BASHCon was fun. I got in on some great gaming with lots of familiar faces and enjoyed a relaxed atmosphere with nerf-gun soldiers and zombies wandering around. I needed a weekend like this.

...except for the part about forgetting my camera and having to fall back on my phone for the whole trip. That's why some of these pictures kinda suck.

Friday
A quick bit of packing and a fairly short road trip to Toledo, and we were unloading the car and crossing the creek by the UT Student Union before we knew it. Tom called up Ken (did I mention Ken? I'm sure somebody did but, long story short, Ken St. Andre was there as a special guest) and found out that we weren't going to have an exhibitors' table after all (again, long story, not very interesting). I was, I admit, relieved. I had never been convinced that selling here would be worth it, and this would leave a lot more time for enjoying the con.

Anyway, we found Ken and chatted a bit in the registration line. Tom ran off, muttering something about not wanting to lose any more fingers, and came back with fried mushrooms and cheese sticks. Somehow we got separated and I overheard BASHCon people frantically looking for Ken. I thought Ken would probably be with Tom, and I knew Tom would go where there was beer. Sure enough, I found them at Phoenicia. Turned out that the BASHCon folks thought Ken was running Tom's T&T game, Lair of the Snow Dragon. I'm guessing that's why we got the awesome private room with four tables. Tom took me, Jerry, Liam, Alex, Ken, and Paul through the hills and a newly-marshy valley (after an eternity spent talking Ken out of attempting to make some kind of marsh-snowshoes out of scrub brush) to a cave in a big rock formation where Alex charmed some fairies with his singing and Ken talked to the dragon.

After the game, several of us met up for a late night snack & nightcap, then went back to our respective hideouts to crash.

Saturday
Tom got a ride over with Alex. I slept in a bit and delivered Ken to the convention. Jerry's zombie game was still in progress, so Ken and I played Magic. I never think to to bring a deck. I imagine my poor old collection is pathetically outmoded by the super-science of modern munchkinry, anyway. Luckily, Ken had a spare, and it was a killer. The man knows his Magic cards.

Over lunch at Phoenicia, I found out that I had been eaten by zombies in Jerry's game. I played in the one last year, so I guess my character's absence needed to be accounted for. Ran into John from previous Peryton RPG and Gamma World adventures, and put together quite a large gathering, Good food, good conversation, blah, blah, blah, I know - you don't care.

So anyway, Ken did a couple of T&T seminars in the afternoon. His hat stuck around to pimp the merchandise when he stepped out. Tom, Jerry, and I wandered in and out of these and took some time to chill in the cozy student center. I'm not sure what happened to the others. I'm sure they had stuff to do. I took a few turns around the exhibit hall, toyed with buying an Eclipse Phase book, a 20-sider that lights up when you roll a 20, or a piece of steampunk jewelry, and ultimately decided that I would have just been buying stuff to buy stuff. I think we popped back over to Phoenicia a few times too.

Eventually, evening came around. Tom's massive three-GM Ragnarok event was really filling up. I had a Peryton RPG event at nine, so I had to wander off while they were still making characters. Checking in at the desk, I found that there were only two players signed up for my dungeon crawl, Shrine of the Mantis.

My game was a little off. Part of it was that my heart wasn't really in it, even though I was unusually well-prepared. Also, I only had two players, one of them in an argumentative mood. Normally, I'm pretty good about finding a way to let people do the cool, unexpected things they come up with in play. I'll even bend the rules if it doesn't seem unfair to the other players. It's a lot harder to be open-minded, though, when you have a player who will run over you if you show even a moment's hesitation. I think I even missed some opportunities to use cool options that were already in the rules, just because I was being worn down by anti-d20 propaganda and lectures on the psychology of giant metal insects, and couldn't think past "it's not your turn!" anymore. I don't want it to sound like it was all that way, or even most of it. There were some great scenes. Anyway, whatever excuses I might come up with, I felt bad about my performance, so I gave the other player a copy of the rule book.

Leaving the common-folk gaming hall around midnight, Ken and I wandered over to the Royal Suite and found that Ragnarok had just wrapped up as well. After a bit of post-game chatter, we headed out. The UT Student Union is a bit of a labyrinth, so we paused to consider the best route. Tom noticed the direction the hall was going and was convinced it would take us where we wanted to go. I remembered the path to the best of the known exits and wanted to go that way. Tom was not to be swayed and, though our trek took us through unlikely nooks and dusty storage stairwells, it ended in a door that opened at the best possible location for us to exit the building. It didn't even set off the fire alarm.

Damn it.

(This picture of the secret exit was obviously not taken that night, but I'm putting it here anyway.)

We said our farewells to Paul, who was on his way out, and then it was time for our traditional Saturday-at-BASHCon treat, late night tacos!

Sunday
Despite the early morning, I was looking forward to Jerry's AD&D game, and it was great. We invaded a slaver fortress, where the Diminutive Death-Dealers (a pair of halfling thieves, one of which was my character) snuck in and took out the wizard while the others fought his giant henchmen. Then the archer got to show off in a fight that ranged across a series of tree-houses connected by raised platforms in the woods, and the barbarian got smacked down. Perfect conclusion to the convention.

Don't Believe Their Lies
Tom's write-ups have become a pain to link to because he insists on posting them in a gazillion pieces, and it looks like Jerry might be succumbing to his perfidious influence. Here's the first installment of Tom's and here's what Jerry has posted so far (and the official one). You'll have to find the rest on your own. Paul has also written up his impressions.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

New Games to Play - Gen Con 2013

For me, the most exciting thing about Gen Con this year is that Peryton Gamers will be running several brand new or in-development role-playing games.

Qalidar: Resistance
Naturally, I'm going to put mine first, right? To be fair, it is the only one that will be ready to sell by Gen Con... I think. After over a year of playtesting and tinkering and I can't even guess how much time in conceptual development, I'm really looking forward to showing this one off in all its glory. Peryton Publishing will be selling a special preview edition of this game with an adventure exclusive to this event. Find us in the Studio 2 Publishing block in the exhibit hall. I'm also planning to have a quick demo handy for anyone who wants to stop by our booth and try it out, but I recommend signing up for one of the sessions listed here if you can.

Qalidar: Resistance 
10am Friday, 10am Saturday, 9pm Saturday
Try out a brand new insurrection-themed RPG in this introductory scenario. Take the role of a Wayfinder, a traveler who whose explorations have taken you far enough outside the tapestry of the scheming trions that you can see the pattern for what it is. Step into the secret places where the oligarchs spin their webs, and try to seal the recklessly-exploited cosmic flaws through which the substance of Qalidar bubbles into the daylit world. I'm running the two morning sessions and a fiendish semi-human assistant is running the Saturday evening one.

Crawlspace
This set of horror RPG rules is evolving from a hybridization of Tom's previously released TAG Crawlspace rules and an unfinished monograph he's been tinkering with for years. It will use his new d10-based system which he's tentatively calling TROTT. I'm trying to convince him not to stick with that.

Bigger Than a Breadbox 
11pm Thursday
You were a college professor teaching Medieval folklore and Astrophysics at Dartmouth University when you went to sleep. Now you're a pizza delivery guy from Cincinnati.

Hopelessly Lost 
Midnight Saturday (which we tend to think of as Friday night)
The natives know that they are as likely to get lost as the tourists in the Lake Fohggihohxi swamps. Big Foot, aliens, or just plain evil?

Castle of the Moth 
Midnight Sunday (Saturday night, y'know?)
Welcome to Horsehead Crag, NY, the world's leading location for UFO sightings and the Moth Man.

Powerful Tales RPG
So, a long time ago, we announced a TAG variant called POW! which led to a fiction anthology called POW!erful Tales. The anthology did really well and got a lot of praise. The RPG kind of languished, and about 473 other people decided they liked the name and tossed up their own POW! RPGs. The Powerful Tales RPG is a completely different thing than the one we were working on before, though. This one's actually based on the Peryton System, and Mike (the editor of the anthology) has some wild ideas that I think will really make it stand out from other superhero RPGs.

Powerful Tales Playtest
11am Friday

I'm not sure what kind of scenario he has in mind yet. All we've got so far is, "Be among the first to try the new superhero RPG from Peryton Publishing."

Stay Alive! 
This is a set of zombie apocalypse variant rules Jerry is putting together for Tunnels & Trolls, but he's done so much work, clearing up ambiguities from the source material and coming up with creative adaptations for all the gory fun you expect from a good zombie flick, that I'm counting it as a new game here. He's been running a series of  adventures and even has a play-by-post game going, in which the zombie plague breaks out at the University of Toledo during BASHCon. I believe this adventure is connected to those.

Out of the Frying Pan
2pm Friday
The world has gone crazy as the dead have seemingly come back to attack and consume the living. You have escaped the campus and survived the night, but what about the day after?

Spacers
Like Crawlspace, Spacers is something Tom's been running for years using TAG, and is now in the process of updating to his new TROTT rules. It's classic sci-fi adventure: rayguns, rocket packs, and space helmets with fins.

Attack of the Androids 
5pm Friday
Throwing ice chunks at Mercury can be tricky. Especially when the androids don't like suicide missions.

No-Dice RPG
I haven't been privy as much of the inside scoop on this one as the others, but I was at one of the playtests, and Scott has a really interesting set of playing-card based rules for his No-Dice RPG.

Psychic Cats and Magic Dogs Detective Agency
9am Saturday
A reporter for the New Atlantis News and Information Service (NANI) has been found dead in the Leo District. Can the eclectic employees of the PC&MD Detective Agency set aside their differences long enough to unravel the clues, expose the conspiracy, and catch the murderer? Each player will run an animal-human-hybrid pre-made character in the setting of New Atlantis. There will be a short lunch break during this game.

Glow
Not to be confused with the Glow World adventure for New Khazan, this is another prototype TROTT game made for post-apocalyptic sci-fi.

Out of the Bubble
9pm Saturday
You've hit 30 years old. The leaders of Bubble-City have decided no one lives beyond 30. This adventure takes a familiar premise and moves on to explore a post-apocalyptic midwest.

Other Stuff
Of course, it's not all shiny and new. We've got my Aqua Teen Hunger Force variant of Bean!, Jerry's Game of Thrones campaign, and several events under the same old T&T system, too. For a complete listing, go to perytongamers.com/events.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

The Next Blog Thing

...or, as it was presented to me, "The Next Big Thing Blog Hop Tour" in which writers answer some standard questions and then tag in some other writers to do the same. I was tagged by Michael K. Eidson, a speculative fiction author, blogger, and web programmer.

Although I've got a whole bunch next big things in the works right now, I've decided to apply these questions to my almost-finished novella, which should be available in couple of months, if not sooner.

1. What is the title of your book?  
The working title is As Always, which was also the title of the short story that started all this. I might still change it if I think of something I like better.

2. Where did the idea come from?
The main elements of the setting are all part of Qalidar, which evolved from a combination of dreams, travel, meditative trances, and role-playing sessions. Also, for reasons I'll go into under another question, this book owes a lot to a prompt from Eposic.

3. What genre does your book fall under?
It starts out as heroic fantasy, dives into time travel pretty quickly, and takes on more science fiction elements as it goes along, while still dipping back into the original heroic fantasy setting on a regular basis. Also, there's an Old West style gunslinger.

4. Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie rendition?
  • Zira: Michelle Rodriguez - I hadn't initially pictured Zira looking like Rodriguez, but there's no reason she couldn't. Mostly, I picked her because her range of expression fits this character really well. The actor who plays Ceira needs to be able to display a believably tough, guarded mood as easily as wide-eyed curiosity. 
  • Fentar: a digitally dwarfed Michael Madsen - And no, I would not want him to affect an accent, most especially not a Scottish one. 
  • Veth Tarkas RhelCillian Murphy - A winning smile, beautiful eyes, and good at being creepy. What more could you want?
  • Wilkes: Ben Browder - I was originally thinking Nathan Fillion, and I'm sure he'd do a wonderful job as well, but, the more I thought about it, the more Browder seemed right, somehow.
  • AradocAnton Yelchin - He may be a little young, but he's got the right look and can certainly manage Aradoc's cocky, playfully dishonest style.
  • Rathlind: Alec Newman - I'm finding it really easy to picture Rathlind's maniacal intensity on Newman's face. Plus, Alec Newman is awesome. He should be in every movie.
5. What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?
Zira, a roguish explorer and treasure-hunter, is drawn into the multiverse-spanning machinations of a charming, amoral mystic, and must find a way to take control or always be a pawn.

6. What is the longer synopsis of your book?
In the course of, you know, that stuff from #5, our heroine has to deal with loss, ambiguous personal relationships, and destructive extra-dimensional corporations. She explores her own world as well as the between-space known as Qalidar. She discovers disturbing things about the forces that shaped her universe and the inhuman conglomerates that are trying to warp it even further. At this point, I need you to imagine you've just read a concluding sentence that brilliantly wraps up the scattered thoughts above and leaves you desperate to find out more. Ideally, it should also convince you that the characters are interesting. Maybe just go back and read #5 again.

7. Is your book self-published or represented by an agency?
It's not quite there yet, but I've already decided to publish this one myself.

8. How long did it take you to write the first draft of your manuscript?
The first draft of my manuscript? Just how long have these questions been circulating? You know it's not 1975 anymore, right? Here in the future, we have word processors. I have to admit, though, I do miss disco.

9. Who or what inspired you to write this book?
It started taking shape as a story when Eposic announced its second anthology and started soliciting stories with a particular set of time travel elements. Although the short story was accepted, Eposic later had to cancel the anthology, so I still had the unpublished piece to market elsewhere. After that, it was accepted by two other publishers, which also folded before my story could see print. Naturally, I had several rejections as well, frequently along the lines of "great story, but ________ (time travel or heroic fantasy or something else) doesn't fit my theme." One guy just didn't like Wilkes.

So anyway, I had this story, and several other bits written. My original plan had been to publish more Qalidar stories through other people. These would have been standalone tales, but would also star the same characters and would continue to develop the overarching plot. Then maybe I'd put them together in an anthology later. Because of the first story's tortuous journey to nowhere and other adventures in time-wasting, though, I scrapped that plan and decided to publish it all myself. And, since it's easier to sell something large than something small, I figured I might as well write the whole thing the way I originally imagined it, as a novella.

10. What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?
It'll be really really cheap in Kindle format.

And that's it for the questions! Now to tag in some more writers and spread the virus. Only one of the people I contacted wanted to play, so allow me to introduce Andre Kruppa of Game Soapbox Productions, master of theatrical horror gaming. He'll be blogging about his next project soon - probably next week.