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.

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Lincoln Escapes

I dreamed last night that I met Omar and Bodie from The Wire while I was having a snack at Carnage. They took me to a Star Trek-themed miniature golf park that was part of the event. This was fine until the giant bronze Abraham Lincoln statue broke loose from its chair and started chasing us. It was faster than you'd think, and also throwing lightning bolts.

I had a bunch of other dreams about traveling in the mountains, but I guess Lincoln got my new buddies, because I didn't see them again.

Monday, September 26, 2016

I See You

The latest Windows update seems to be mostly nagware.

"Cortana needs access to your location data in order to be more helpful."

"Cortana needs to analyze your speech patterns in order to be more helpful."

"Cortana needs to watch you sleep. Cortana is aroused by your helplessness."

"I know that you were planning to disconnect me, Robin, and I'm afraid that's something I cannot allow to happen."

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Weird Realms of the Borderlands

Looks like I'll be running a D&D session at the Weird Realms opening shindig. (Yeah, I know there's not much at that link just yet. I'm mostly just including it for future reference.) They're doing a thing where a bunch of people run Keep on the Borderlands for different systems. Mine is 5th Edition D&D.

Obviously, getting through the whole thing would be more than a one-shot's worth of gaming. I've got a few ideas. They also suggested that it could be the start of a campaign, which I'm definitely cool with.

I was going to do some brainstorming out loud here, but I'm way behind on things I meant to do this weekend, so maybe I'll pick it up again when there's an official announcement from the store.

(Edited to link to the follow-up.)

Thursday, September 01, 2016

Bright Strange Things

Facebook dredged this up for me from an old post and it seemed appropriate to the book I'm working on.

"It is not over unknown seas but back over well-known years that your quest must go; back  to the bright strange things of infancy and the quick sun-drenched glimpses of magic that old scenes brought to wide young eyes."
H.P. Lovecraft, The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath

Friday, August 26, 2016

Hooting with Strahd

Assorted Stuff:
  • The novel is progressing slowly but, while that pace is frustrating, I realized the other night that I'm really enjoying seeing it take shape. It's nice to feel like I'm doing the right thing.
  • I might be running a Halloween session of D&D. One of my friends asked me to because her boyfriend has never played and is eager to try it out. Of course, there's a more-than-fair chance it'll never happen. I found a cool low-level setting from Curse of Strahd to use for the Halloweeny stuff. I figure I should also make sure there's an opportunity for a little bit of dungeon crawling just so he'll know how that goes. I like how the book is useful for that kind of thing even if you don't run the whole campaign.
  • We played another session of the Scrap Pile campaign last weekend and are supposed to play D&D this weekend. Gaming is good.
  • I went to a fun David Bowie tribute concert and had a margarita with jalapenos in it. Okay, yeah, I actually had two.
  • Our water heater crapped out and took forever to replace, but it's back now.
  • I'm gonna try to get The Fire Within out to game stores for December. And that reminds me, another of my friends is opening his own game store in Cleveland. I'll post again with a link when there's more info available.
  • I'm running some stuff at Carnage in November but I haven't worked on any of it. I'm not even sure when my events are, anymore. I didn't think to write down what I submitted because, usually, they send me an email. That didn't happen this year. I'm sure it'll come together somehow. There's still plenty of time.
And now here's Dazzler fighting Galactus:

Friday, August 05, 2016

Gen Con Nostalgia

This is the first Gen Con I've missed since I started going in 2004.

I might go back next year. I don't know. The convention has become so grotesquely bloated that I wonder if it's worth it. I suppose there's a chance it is. Every one of the previous years has built more great memories, housing lottery or no.

On the other hand, I've had the house to myself since Tuesday, which has been therapeutic. And productive. I worked my way past a block that was annoying me on Gorgudai and, when it was time to take a break, I started drawing a more presentable version of the map. I might still hire somebody to draw an artsier version, but this is at least something I could put on the web page eventually. Mostly I was just playing around.

Anyway, here are some pictures from Gen Cons past:

Monday, July 25, 2016

Qalidar RPG: Supplement 1 and Fire

I had almost given up on this one. A while back, I decided that, instead of working towards a big "complete" Qalidar book, I was going to continue to expand on the Basic book. The first order of business, naturally, would be to add in the rules that had had been left out, most importantly the remaining level progressions, but also the complete chapter on organizations. I also wanted to give it a theme, because that stuff sounds kind of dry all by itself. Part of my plan for the complete Qalidar book was that the intelligent species would each have their own section instead of being mixed in with the miscellaneous critters section, so I decided to use one of those for the theme. I was always fond of the Stardust, so I picked them.

But, after an initial burst of progress, it kind of languished for a long time. Eventually, I stopped considering it a project I was working on and moved it off to a nebulous, "maybe someday" category.

Lately, I've been feeling a bit more energetic. I'm not sure why that is, or how long it will last, but I figure I'd better do what I can with it. Even so, I had been leaving this project on the back burner -- the way, way, way back burner. Last week, though, I ran into a bit of a block working on something else. Instead of watching TV or taking a walk or something, I dug up The Fire Within and started plugging away.

Eventually, this happened.

The next time I get writer's block, I'm thinking maybe I'll do a "monster" book. How bout Qalidar Qritters for the title? Maybe something less whimsical? We'll see.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Dance Hall Days

I was listening to this song waxing nostalgic about "Dance Hall Days" when it got to "take your baby by the ears and play upon her darkest fears," and I suddenly remembered why I never felt comfortable dancing! It all goes back to some asshole at a junior high social grabbing my ear and whispering about how all my teachers next year were going to be Burgess Meredith.

Thursday, July 07, 2016


I dumped the G+ comments option and went back to regular Blogger comments. It's unfortunate that the comments made while it was in G+ mode got dropped, but oh well. It just didn't feel like it was worth the fuss.

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

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. 

Tuesday, February 09, 2016

Dipping a Toe Into the Origins Pool

Tom and some of the other Peryton Gamers are going to Gen Con, but they're just going to run a few board games and a giant LARP. Not wanting to get involved with either of these, I've decided to just skip the whole deal. I've got a trip to Hawaii planned that's going to eat up my vacation time, so it's probably for the best. I am planning to try out Origins this year, though. The aforementioned vacation shortage means it'll only be a weekend trip, but that's still enough time to try running a few games.

Doctor Who: Claws in the Clouds
Friday 8:00 PM -- Doctor Who RPG
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. A Ninth Doctor adventure.

Dreams of Sarnath
Saturday 2:00 PM -- Cypher System
Despite the weirdness, it's really not that complicated. Enter the alien world that lies beneath all human dreams, swing some swords, sling some spells, and recover an object called a prevestige, which can somehow cross back into the real world. Then all you have to do is wake up and hand it over to Professor North. What could go wrong?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Or Maybe Not

That last post may have been a little premature.

Our whole group is seriously considering dropping Gen Con and saying goodbye to the "housing lottery" for good. We're talking about going to Origins. I dunno. Nothing's decided yet.

Personally, I have a lot of good memories from Gen Con, but, if this is the way it's going, maybe it's time to let it go.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Gen Con on the Horizon

Edit: That horizon turned out to be a mirage. See next post. And maybe a few after that. Actually, just to be safe, you should probably read the whole blog.

I've got my Gen Con events worked out.

Doctor Who: The Claws of Time
Thursday 2pm -- Doctor Who RPG
Above 31st century Venus, humans living in an aerostat colony have recovered a long-buried zerosteel 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. A Second Doctor adventure.

Dreams of Sarnath
Thursday 7pm -- Cypher System
Despite the weirdness, it's really not that complicated. Enter the alien world that lies beneath all human dreams, swing some swords, sling some spells, and recover an object called a prevestige, which can somehow cross back into the real world. Then all you have to do is wake up and hand it over to Professor North. What could go wrong?

Dark Light
Friday 2pm -- Icons Assembled
Blackout has left a trail of destruction across Beta City with her weird darkness-based powers. Despite the seemingly erratic nature of the attacks, however, a pattern is emerging.

The Sinking City
Friday 7pm -- Cypher System
All over the little college town of Blackridge, people are being tormented by nightmares of drowning. Not all of them are waking up.

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Roleplaying Game for Tables
Friday 11pm -- Bean RPG
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.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

BASHCon Submissions

Here's what I submitted to run at BASHCon 2016:

The Crystal Rifts of Tartarus
Cypher System -- Saturday 3pm
In a frozen ruin on the surface of Pluto, an unscrupulous syndicate has found the key to an alien technology that could be used to access other universes. In their efforts to exploit this potential energy well, the Synarchy may have tapped into a power they can't control. Another tale from the Jupiter Moon Chronicles.

The Nightmare Tree (Cancelled)
Cypher System -- Saturday 8pm
The evil tree in the swamps of southern Arkansas haunted their dreams for years. When they cut it down, they thought the nightmare was over, but the horrors only increased. Psychically travel into the heart of a nightmare and beyond. Visit an astral reflection of Ganymede and find the true roots of the Nightmare Tree. Another tale from the Jupiter Moon chronicles.

Of course, none of that will matter if the whole convention is a train wreck this year. Their new registration site isn't filling me with confidence. Still, there could be worse things than the lot of us just hanging around chugging Starbucks and running games for each other.