Tuesday, May 29, 2012

A Dark Gathering

Besides being one of those great three-day'ers (Labor Day or Memorial Day or something), this past weekend was our "Dark Gathering," a troll hoot mutated into a horror-fest. Mostly it was Call of Cthulhu, but we also had some FUDGE, Tunnels & Trolls, and Dark Harvest.

After a fairly uneventful trip, we settled in at the Maplewood, arriving just a few minutes after Andre and Christy. After checking out our suite (the Loft, from here on) and unpacking, we joined them for drinks at the gaudy sports bar across the way. After that, we drank some vodka that Andre had bought because it came in a glass skull.

Friday morning, Tom and Christy went looking for a grocery store and, oddly enough, couldn't find one. More of the gang came trickling in and Andre started setting up his lighting and sound equipment in the downstairs suite (the Dungeon).

Compound Interest
Dave ran this improvisational Tunnels & Trolls adventure for Tom, Christy, and me in the Loft. He asked for us each to contribute a word. We gave him bridge, well, and nobility. In the course of figuring out why it was raining ash while a pair of giant, empty iron boots stomped across town, we found ourselves trekking out to a city suspended on chains above a pit. Our rather timid party saw an ancient pact sealed in (possibly) innocent blood, turned down an opportunity to follow the owner of the boots underwater, and went on its merry way. Dave later commented that, although it had not been intentional, the entire session was diceless. That was a little disappointing really, because I had rolled up a character that would make even the most degenerate power-gamer jealous. I usually roll really badly on these things. Oh, cruel Fortune! Again, you mock me! Tyler showed up towards the end and watched, generously providing beer from a company with the same name as the neighborhood I grew up in.

Kick-Off Dinner
The whole crew was here now, so all of us went down to the hotel restaurant (Carnegie something or other) and ate. Well, not all of us. Andre was still slaving away in the Dungeon. Besides the ones I've already mentioned, that would be Nik, Dan, Nyssa (I'm so jealous of her for that name), and Ray. Dan was completely new to me and, while I had met Nyssa before, it was in an Andre game, where one does not engage in chit-chat. We had a nice time getting to know new friends, reconnecting with old ones, and toying with the idea of committing Andre to a thirty-dollar steak dinner, and then moved on to the evening games.

Abyss of Insanity
Doctor Nik led Tom, Christy, Nyssa, and me on this antarctic operation in the Loft. I played a half-crazed berserker with a hockey stick and spent a lot of time getting us into trouble and running over bad guys with a commandeered ATV. The first part of the session ran like something out of a GI Joe cartoon. Then we went underground and it was all tentacles and cave-ins and "Aaaaa! Nothing kills it! NOTHING KILLS IT!" My character died, but it was only surprising that it took as long as it did. I skipped out on the after-party because I didn't want to be hung over when I ran my game the next day.

Any Port in a Storm
I ran this one in the Loft for Nik, Tyler, Tom, Nyssa, and Dave. I had played Call of Cthulhu many times before, but this was my first attempt to GM it. I wrote up some paranormal investigators in search of television-worthy footage, gave them a few secrets, and threw them into the upper reaches of Qalidar by way of some time-traveling jellyfish pirates with pyramid-shaped heads. I also worked in flying polyps, undead Yithians, and nightgaunts. I don't know how well I entertained them, but they did a wonderful job of entertaining me. Their reactions to the environment, each other, and the various psychotic breaks that followed were priceless. I've decided that I really like running Call of Cthulhu.

Dinosaur BBQ
Tyler had gone to school in Syracuse at some point and had been dreaming of revisiting Dinosaur BBQ ever since we suggested this location. Tom and I had been once before and were happy to tag along. Andre's crew was still getting tortured by vodouns or something, so it was just the bunch from my game (minus Nik) squeezing into Tyler's miniature car and heading downtown. Good stuff. The place was seriously packed, but we didn't have to wait long and didn't really mind anyway. The hot sauce was excellent.

The Vault
Over the course of the weekend, Andre ran four sessions down in the Dungeon. I played in this one with Tom, Dan, and Ray. As always, Andre provided an awesomely immersive atmosphere and put on a great show. Dan showed off his encyclopedic knowledge of, like, everything, playing an antiquarian with Ray as his wife and me as his sister. Tom and I played Chicago artistes, although he was a loser who was cheating on me. The loser had the last laugh when Dan's character killed mine and Ray's, then committed suicide. It was probably the most depressing game I've ever been in.

Fever Dream
Sunday, Tom ran this one for Tyler, Nik, Dave, and me. We were a group of strangers summoned to the bedside of a dying mentor who proceeded to suck the life out of his lawyer and menace us while crawling around like a spider. Finding little practical assistance in our available research options, we set fire to the house and drove away. Unfortunately, our car broke down and some henchcritters caught up to us. It didn't go well from there - the word "impaled" comes to mind - although some of us did survive.

Big Bash at Tully's
Tom, Dave, and I wandered over to the sports bar again, tossing a texted invite for the others over our shoulders, and had some drinks while we waited to see who'd show. Turned out everyone but Nik and Andre did. Andre was breaking down his equipment. I'm not sure what Nik was up to. Somehow the conversation kept turning to the intricacies of church doctrine and the priesthood. Tom and Dan were especially into it.

Dave brought a game I hadn't seen before, Dark Harvest. It's a neat alternate history thing where Frankenstein establishes a kingdom in Eastern Europe and tries to make the world better with his organ splicing technology and people twist it to predictably horrible means. Tom, Christy, and I played in this one as a group of secret police trying to catch what appeared to be a traditional vampire, but turned out to be an enhancement operation gone wrong. Tom and Christy put on a great show as an asshat noble and a brutish soldier-thug. My character was the less interesting but necessary "straight man" of the comedy trio.

Lighting up the Dungeon
I think the others were playing Betrayal at the House on the Hill while we were hunting fake vampires, but I'm not sure. By the time we got down there, they were into a card game called Guillotine, in which the goal was apparently to collect more severed heads than the other players. As that broke up, more cognac and whiskey (and some people probably had beer) started trickling through everyone's system (or, in Tom's case, serving as a replacement for blood) and the evening chilled nicely. I stayed up until around 3:30 AM, enjoying the conversation, before I finally went to bed, leaving only Tom, Andre, Dave, and Christy still going. As I drifted off to sleep, I heard them singing some kind of pirate song through the floor. I have no idea how that started.

Monday morning, we packed up, visited with Nik and Dave, and took off. We drove in the wrong direction for a while until we realized that nothing looked familiar and turned the GPS gizmo on. We got home to find that one of the neighbor's larvae had left its bicycle in our driveway. It was nice to see the cats again.

Corroborating Evidence
Tyler also wrote up the event on his blog. If you prefer your travelogues with zippy nicknames and enough booze to make Dean Martin rise from the grave to call you a lush, Tom has given us a five-part epic that starts here. You'll (eventually) see some of the same pictures you did in mine and, yeah, he took most of them but, since I'm the one who can insert them into a blog without freaking out and ranting about how evil Google is, I get to use them too. Oh yeah, and don't believe his lies.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Multi-System Mania

So, I just released Snow, a multi-system adventure (Peryton RPG, Basic Fantasy, Labyrinth Lord, and Tunnels & Trolls), through Peryton Publishing. While I plan to do more one-dollar multi-system adventures like this one, I'm wistfully daydreaming about how nice it would be to do some that aren't. It's not that it's hard, exactly. It's just that it bogs down the process more than I expected.

I came up with a unified stat block for the three D&D-based games, and I threw in T&T (sidebarishly) just because it's easy and, really, such a joy to stat up critters for that game. I was kind of proud of the unified stat block. It's still pretty compact because of the overlap between the three related systems, and it supplies the information you need for any of them. Special qualities are all moved to the text so you don't have to worry about references that aren't there in whichever system you're playing it with. It takes very little extra effort to do stat blocks this way. It's still much easier, for example, than doing a complete stat block for a 3rd Edition D&D monster.

So far, so good. Then you get into spell references. Mostly this is okay, but some spells have different names because of the OSR's habit of converting any altered names back into High Gygaxian. And, of course, they all have slightly different (not much, but just enough) spell lists anyway, so you have to make sure the one you want to use exists in all of them. Magic items... well, I try to come up with new ones for published adventures anyway, so it's no big deal to ensure from the start that they're compatible. NPC's can be problematic. If I want to use a new class from my game, I can't just say that the character is a 7th level mystic and expect that to mean anything to the guy playing Labyrinth Lord. My solution is the same as the one I used in Pits of Paneris, stat up any questionable NPCs as if they were unique monsters. It works, but it makes "eh, maybe this one should just be a lizard man" awfully tempting sometimes.

Okay, so, for all that whining, I really think the process is going to work out well. I'm much happier doing Peryton + Old School than I was doing Peryton + Pathfinder, despite the differences in terminology. I'm already well into the sequel. It does seem to get easier as I go, although I may end up having to switch over to Gen Con prep mode before I finish it, because I've got so much to do this year.

But that's a whole other post.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

A Universe From Nothing

Here's another one I just finished. Pretty informative and a very easy read, although it seemed a little short for the subject. It was fun to read something by a scientist who doesn't like string theory after the last one, which was very string theory-heavy.

The only drawback is that it seems like the guy spends a little bit of time in every chapter trying to reason with professional philosophers and theologians, a masochistic exercise I'd rather not witness. I suppose it's understandable that he feels some obligation to defend the title at least a little bit, although, even if you're convinced that "nothing" is the wrong word, it doesn't really affect anything important.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Beyond Medieval Europe

So, here's a new issue of this Elder Tunnels thing:

And the chorus goes:
This issue's theme is the world beyond Medieval Europe. We've got stuff from the Incan Empire, Arabian Nights, Japanese folklore, and all sorts of other exotic excellence.