Monday, July 27, 2015

Happy Birthday Gary

Chuck a 20-sider in honor of Gary Gygax today.
"I would like the world to remember me as the guy who really enjoyed playing games and sharing his knowledge and his fun pastimes with everybody else."

Gary Gygax

Sunday, July 19, 2015

[Cryptworld] New Thing: Humansquito

A Biohazardous Bloodsucker for Cryptworld

STR: 4 (60) --- WPR: 1 (15)
DEX: 6 (90) --- PER: 2 (30)
AGL: 6 (90) --- PCN: 5 (75)
STA: 3 (45) --- PWR: NA
ATT: 1/75% --- WND: 12
MV:  L 75† F 75

Experience: 800

A Humansquito is a grotesque hybrid of man and mosquito. The humanoid insect stands about 7 feet tall and has insectile features such as multifaceted eyes, a chitinous exoskeleton, and a pair of insect wings enabling it to fly. The THING's eyes are especially adapted to see images on the infrared scale, enabling it to detect any heat sources (such as prey) with ease. The most frightening feature of a Humansquito is its long, sharpened proboscis which it uses for feeding, draining a victim of every last drop of blood in mere seconds.

A Humansquito is created when a human is bitten by a mosquito carrying mutated DNA. This genetic error is usually triggered by radioactivity exposure, feeding from biohazardous waste, or ill-advised genetic tampering by scientists. The infected mosquito passes along its genetic traits when it bites its victim. The physical changes start to manifest in the THING within the first 24 hours, as the victim's body begins an agonizing metamorphosis. Even before the victim's physical changes start to surface, the future Humansquito might have an overwhelming craving for blood -- attacking small animals or even humans in a deperate attempt to quench its hunger. Within 48 hours, the skin will transform into a hardened insect exoskeleton; the eyes will bulge and become more like an insect's; and two large membranous wings will shred out from the shoulderblades. At 72 hours, the metamorphosis will be complete, and the Humansquito will fly into the world, looking for victims.

The Humansquito will make its lair in locations that are warm and damp such as swamplands and bogs. In a more urban setting, garbage dumps and landfills will appeal to the Humansquito. When it spies a victim, the Humansquito will mindlessly fly down to attack. (It will not wait to surprise or stalk its prey, working on insect instinct at this point.) It will attempt to subdue and grapple its prey (with an "H" result or better on an unarmed combat attack roll). Once it has its prey held down, it will try to sink its proboscis into the victim's chest to begin feeding. This attack requires a successful "C" result on an unarmed attack roll. If successful, the spear-like tube strikes its target's heart, instantly killing the victim. The Humansquito can drain the prey of blood within 1 minute, at which point it flies off, bloated and sated. A Humansquito must feed once each week before it begins to weaken.

NOTE: The Humansquito is a specific version of the Brundle to show you how to customize a Cryptworld THING into a new cryptid threat!

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Dungeon Solitaire, Tomb Of The Four Kings: Solo Adventuring With Just A Deck Of Cards

True story: When I was younger, I used to have a book of solitaire variants. I'd while away the hours with a deck of cards playing klondike, pyramid, spider, clock, etc. I was in my 80's D&D phase at the time, and I noodled around with designing a version of solitaire around a dungeon-delving theme. One concept was to have the cards act as 10 x 10 rooms, laid out in a random map format, as the other cards acted as monsters and treasure and...ughhhh, I never got further than the conceptual point.

So imagine my surprise and delight to discover that Matthew Lowes has developed and released the rules for Dungeon Solitaire: Tomb of the Four Kings! This snappy little solitaire card game uses only a standard deck of cards (plus one Joker) and challenges the player to enter a long-forgotten tomb, fighting monsters and gathering treasure. You only score if you can make it back out alive, so watch your hit points and don't run out of torches! You score more points if you're able to discover the four treasure rooms of the Kings, so will you delve even deeper into the crypt, or will you run for the entrance when the mighty 10 of Spades surfaces?

Since its release, I've been playing game after game when I can find the time, and this solo card game is exactly what I tried cobbling together years ago. You set aside the 2 through 10 of hearts, which acts as your hit point gauge. As you take damage, you turn over the cards until you either escape or die. The rest of the deck acts as your GM for the delve. You initially turn over a card at the beginning of each turn for your "encounter." The deck then become your "action" deck as you try to surmount the exposed challenge. Clubs are sealed doors which must be battered down or lockpicked. Diamonds are trapped treasure hoards which must be disarmed. And spades are the monsters and creatures guarding the dungeon's rooms and corridors. The higher the value, the tougher the challenge. After the encounter is exposed, you must turn over a card from the action deck of an equal or higher value to overcome the obstacle (suit doesn't matter). Succeed, and you survive to gather up treasure and go deeper into the tomb. Fail, and you take hit point damage equal to the difference.

The gameplay gets even more challenging when you account for the
aces and the faces. Aces are your four torches which represents an ever-dwindling supply of light in the dungeon. When an ace turns up, you set it aside, as it's gone out. When the last ace turns up, your last torch has gone out, and you are plunging into darkness, losing the game. Jacks represent skills learned while adventuring ("jack-of-all-trades"), and each allows you to bypass one encounter of the matching suit. For example, the Jack of Clubs represents the lockpick skill, so you can bypass any one "sealed door" encounter. Queens are the Divine Favors of the Goddess, which allows you to immediately win any encounter in which she surfaces. And the Joker is the Scroll of Light, allowing you to relight that last torch when it goes out.

As you can see, there's a lot of strategy and pre-planning to consider as you adventure in Dungeon Solitaire. Should you press on, or turn around and hope to make it out alive? Will your torches hold out until you reach the surface? A perfect score is 4/100, so even if you survive, there's always a higher score to strive for. And there's no denying the portability, as you only need that afore-mentioned deck of cards to play anywhere. (I would love to one day have a custom card deck created with an appropriate dungeon-y card back with each card face representing the creatures, doors, treasures, torches, goddesses, and Tombs you'd encounter. One day, perhaps.)

John Payne released his home rules and variants for Dungeon Solitaire, so here are two of my suggestions to the gameplay:

MORE HEALTH, LESS LIGHT: Your hit point gauge is made up of the 2 through 10 of Hearts. When the 2 is showing, you technically only have one hit point left. (When that card is turned over, you're dead.) I suggest taking the Ace of Hearts and adding it to your HP gauge, giving you a "true" 10 hit points. However, you now only have three torches during the delve, making survival more difficult. Which is more important: one more hit point or one more torch? Play this variant and see!

ACCUMULATED DAMAGE: When you encounter and fight a creature (any Spade card), you must turn over a card of equal or higher value to win. Failure means you take damage and continue to turn over cards until you win. If you're up against a 9 or 10, you're likely going to die before you turn over a similarly high card. I suggest that each non-winning card deals damage to the creature. For example, you reveal the 10 of Spades -- a very high level monster. Your first action card is a 6, so you take 4 HP damage. But rather than staying at a level 10, the monster would now be wounded down to a level 4 creature, as you did 6 points of damage. The next round, you reveal a 3, so you would now take 1 HP of damage (4 - 3) while doing another 3 points of damage to the monster, who is now at 1 HP. The next card you reveal should end it's life. With this method, you won't die so quickly as you turn over card upon card hoping to equal/beat a 10. Instead, this method has you slowly weakening the creature until you finally (hopefully) defeat it.

Dungeon Solitaire: Tomb of the Four Kings is available as a free download at Matthew's site, and links to the files appear at the end of this blog post. It's an amazing game, Matthew, and thanks for releasing it to the wild for us!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

[Cryptworld] New Thing: The Tooth Fairy

A Demented Dentist for Cryptworld

STR: 4 (60) --- WPR: 2 (30)
DEX: 4 (60) --- PER: 3 (45)
AGL: 4 (60) --- PCN: 5 (75)
STA: 3 (45) --- PWR: NA
ATT: 1/60% --- WND: 12
MV:  L 75†

Experience: 800

The Tooth Fairy is a murderous fiend who covets and collects the teeth of his living victims. No one who has encountered The Tooth Fairy has lived to tell of the encounter. No one is certain what he looks like either, although whispered rumors say that he is a tall, thin, pale man with sunken eyes. They say when he comes for you, he's wearing his trademark leather apron and face mask that conceals his identity, also giving him the appearance of a monstrous dentist.

The Tooth Fairy has a hidden lair that he has set up much like an oral surgeon's office. A decrepit dentist chair (with restraints) sits under a glaring medical lamp. A rolling tray filled with rusty dentist's tools is at hand, as well as powered tools such as a drill and grinder. The Tooth Fairy also has various anesthetics and sedatives at his disposal that he uses to sedate a victim to bring back to his "office." However, he won't begin his craft on a sedated patient, as The Tooth Fairy desires them to be clear-headed for the procedure.

For several agonizing hours, The Tooth Fairy slowly and laboriously removes the victim's teeth, placing each one into a small individual jar filled with alcohol to preserve it. He extracts only those teeth that are pristine and unmarred -- no caps, crowns, or those with fillings. Once he has taken all of the collectible teeth he can from his agonized patient, The Tooth Fairy has no further use for the victim and uses his tools to kill them in the chair. He them dumps the body miles away from his office. When the police find a mutilated body with several teeth surgically removed, they can be certain The Tooth Fairy has struck again.

NOTE: The Tooth Fairy is a specific version of the Harvester to show you how to customize a Cryptworld THING into a local urban legend and threat!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

"Sorry, You're Not On The List."

Sorry folks, but I had to go to comment moderation to deal with some troublesome spammers I've been fighting with. So comment all you want, and I'll approve them while kicking spammers to the curb.

Saturday, June 6, 2015

The "Change Your Convention Attendance" Challenge Aftermath: How'd I Do?

So earlier this week, I presented myself with a challenge: Could I fund an entire day at a gaming convention with just the contents of my change jar? So I changed it in at my bank and funded my entire day at Origins with just loose change. My goal was not to "tighten the purse strings," but rather spend as I usually do at one of these events. (After all, I could not buy anything and bring my own food, but that felt like "cheating" on the spirit of the challenge.)

So, for those of you who were following along with The "Change Your Convention Attendance" Challenge, here's how the numbers shaked out:

In 7 1/2 months of saving nothing but spare change, I accumulated $180.64, so that was my starting balance.

-$20.00 to top off my car with gas for the trip there and back.
-$4.50 (rounded up) for breakfast.
-$3.00 for all-day parking.
-$15.00 for my Origins one-day badge.
-$4.00 for my Indie Games on Demand ticket.
-$8.50 (rounded up) for lunch.

-$8.00 for a well-worn copy of Tomb of Horrors
-$35.00 for The Quiet Year Burlap Bag Edition (been wanting this for a while)
-$20.00 for a very good condition DungeonQuest (auction win)
-$25.00 for What's He Building in There? (board game impulse buy)
-$30.00 for DCC RPG goodies (Against the Atomic Overlord and two Lankhmar modules)

Total spent: $173.00

Came home with $6.64, which will be dumped into the change jar as "seed money" for my next convention attendance.

Some of you may protest. "$180!? That's hardly a challenge! That's more than enough to fund a day without stretching your budget or denying yourself!"

Yes, that was the point. It wasn't to show you how to cut corners or tighten your belt with limited funds. It was to show you just how much you CAN accumulate from just saving your pennies. My saved pennies paid for today without me paying a single cent from my checking account or making a single charge on any cards. In my head, I just enjoyed a day for "free."

And that $6.64 remaining will help pay for some gaming awesomeness next year.

Origins Day 1 (And Only): The Quiet Year, No Best Hope, And A Bunch Of Confused "Church Folks"

Hi gang, and welcome to today's travelogue and review of my one-day-only visit to Origins Game Fair in Columbus, Ohio. Although I live only one hour north of the con, it's one I seem to miss each year due to some other convention conflict that arises. But this year, nothing was stopping me from zipping down for the day, so I decided to enjoy a day at Origins getting a bit o' gaming under my belt this month. And here are some of the highlights of my whirlwind one-day visit:
  • Although the convention center is The Big Building In The Center Of Columbus That's Impossible To Miss, I somehow STILL managed to get a bit lost in a maze of one way streets before I arrived. Damn, I forgot what a pain driving around this town can be. (Former OSU student.)
  • Arrived at 7:30 a.m. and walked right up and grabbed my pre-registration badge. The floor was pretty quiet at this time, though there were a few quiet games being played at some of the tables here and there throughout the concourse.
  • Other than Gen Con, all of the conventions I've been to in recent years have been smaller regional ones held at hotels or smaller venues. I forgot just how damn big Origins is. It fills every room in the convention center with plenty of spillage into the neighboring hotels. Next year, I must attend for the full five days. There's an embarrassment of gaming riches in my own backyard, for Pete's sake.
  • Because I didn't have time to register for gaming events, I bought only one ticket -- to the 9 a.m. Indie Games of Demand room. My thought was that I'd have my choice of different games to play with the purchase of just one ticket. However, when I got to the room, there was a line snaking out the door. Apparently a lot of other folks had the same thought. By the time I got in, the game I wanted to play -- Our Last Best Hope -- was filled. Fiasco? Filled. Dread? Filled. Dungeon and/or Apocalypse World? Filled. The only games NOT filled were a wrestling game and some anime cat-schoolgirl game. So I decided to try back later.
  • The concourse was now hopping-busy. I played a little game of watching for convention shirts to cons I'd been to in the past. Saw two Gary Cons, one U-Con, many Gen Cons, and -- believe it or not -- one Gamicon shirt!
  • I started seeing people dressed in their Sunday best swarming throughout the convention. These "church folks" were obviously confused about where they were and were they should be going. Turns out that a high school graduation was being held on an upper floor, and many folks just entered the convention center on the wrong floor. It was kind of amusing to watch grandparents and relatives from out of town arrive for Johnny's graduation only to be met by vikings, steampunk inventors, and a handful of slutty pirates.
  • Although, post-graduation, these same students came back to get some awesome photos of themselves with their new diplomas with a horde of vikings cheering behind them. That was pretty awesome.
  • Met a guy who was breaking out some cards from a small burlap bag at one of the tables. I recognized it as The Quiet Year, a game I've been wanting to try. I introduced myself, and he and I sat down and fumbled through a two-player game. Very fun little map game. He had just bought it from one of the vendors, and he was kind enough to point me toward the last remaining copy. Thanks again Steve! 
  • Stopped by Games on Demand again. Still full up. Looks like that idea was a bust.
  • And every game I checked on throughout the rest of Saturday was full up. Didn't feel like wandering around with generic tix hoping to score a seat in some random game, so it seems like open gaming and stumbling across games (like Quiet Year) is all I can really do today.
  • Wandered through the dealer's hall. Massive number of vendors and plenty of shopping to be done. I had my heart set on scoring two games (Penny Press and Hostage Negotiator), but came up empty on those. One board game I *did* want -- Extra Extra by Mayfair Games -- had a $65 price tag. So I passed on it. I did pick up a keen "mad scientist taking over the world" resource game called "What's He Building In There?" 
  • Board games are EVERYWHERE nowadays, and RPGs and CCGs seem to be taking a backseat to 'em. Every vendor seemed to have stacks upon stacks of boxes of the latest boardgames rather than racks and racks of rulebooks or ultra-rare cards under glass.
  • Found the Goodman Games booth manned by Roy Snyder, and he and I jawed about games and what-not for a bit. He told me that there would be an announcement at NTRPG Con today that was pretty big. He was right. (Found out about it upon getting home.) Picked up the newest DCC RPG materials, and scampered off.
  • Walked into the HUGE open gaming area next door. A ballroom as large as the vendor's hall was hosting pick-up-and-play games everywhere. The Big Dogs of gaming had their own areas -- Mayfair, AEG, Wizards, Upper Deck, Cryptozoic, etc. I sat down at one table and promptly got trounced at Star Trek Catan. (I wanted to stand up and scream "KHAAAAAN", but was afraid I'd be kicked out.
  • Earlier in the day, I poked my head into the auction room to look at the goodies that were up for bids later that afternoon. Saw a very nice copy of Games Workshop's DungeonQuest -- a game I've wanted for quite some time. Hours later I walked into the auction, got a bidder's card, and sat down. Sure enough, the VERY next item was that copy of DungeonQuest. Snagged it for $20. Talk about right place at the right time!
  • So as afternoon became early evening, and with my back and feet killing me (no hotel room to crash in to energize for late-night gaming), I called it a day and came home. My biggest downfall was not getting more gaming in, but that's due to not pre-registering for events. Next year, I'll do that, but I hardly consider the day a bust as I had a great time. Played some stuff, bought some stuff, met some friends, made some new ones, and came home energized. Isn't that what these are all about anyway?
  • And those who want to know about The Change Your Convention Attendance Challenge and how that worked out, check out the upcoming follow-up post!

And here are pictures taken from around the convention:
Always nice to see the welcome banner at any convention I attend...even if it's just for one day.

I forgot just how big Origins truly is. Both floors of the convention center were occupied by the event.

Registration lines were non-existent when I arrived at 7:30 a.m.

Registration lines snaked throughout the concourse just 2 hours later.

 From a distance, this rocketship made out of balloons looked just like know...

 "Giant" games were being held everywhere. Here, a giant game of Catan is underway.

 And here's a giant game of King of Tokyo (or perhaps it's New York...)

Aside from games held in smaller rooms throughout the building, the open gaming area took up a monstrously huge ballroom as big as the vendor's hall. You name it, it was being played in this area.

Some foam-boffer LARP folks were taking on all-comers. This little girl was giving the training knight 40 kinds of hell.

Of course, I always need to stop by the Goodman Games booth to pick up the newest DCC RPG stuff! (And hang out for a few minutes with Roy Snyder -- no relation.)

The Origins auction in full swing. Many good deals were being had by the folks. I snagged a personal grail while I was there.

And my purchases made throughout the day. Yes, that's a quite-well-used Tomb of Horrors on the bottom right purchased from a vendor who was apparently just offloading his well-used gaming materials!