Tuesday, September 22, 2015

[Kickstarter] The Check Deck: A Twist On Checkers

 I love gamehacks and optional home rules folks think up for their favorite boardgames. (For example, tossing all taxes and penalties into the center of the Monopoly board, then hoping you're the first to land on Free Parking for that jackpot!) A new gamehack I stumbled across on Kickstarter is "The Check Deck" -- a deck of 34 rule-breaking cards for Checkers. Similar to Knightmare Chess, The Check Deck adds an element of randomness to the otherwise straightforward game of Checkers.

At the beginning of the match, each player is dealt 7 cards at random from The Check Deck. Play then proceeds normally, with the exception that -- instead of moving -- a player can instead play one of the cards in his hand and follow those instructions for his turn. He may be allowed to treat any piece as if it were a King for that turn, jumping and capturing as many opponent pieces as possible. He might play a card allowing him to move two pieces that turn instead. Or he may swap the position of one of his pieces with that of one of his opponents. Freezing a piece in place, or removing any piece from play could also happen.
The Check Deck already hit its minuscule goal of $100 with 27 days left to go. Only $12 gets you a deck shipped free anywhere in the U.S. with delivery in November in time for Christmas. (Apparently all that's needed is funds for printing, as a prototype deck is featured on the Kickstarter page.) I can't remember the last time I broke out my Checkers board, but this sounds like a nifty addition to try out and toss into the gamebox for future diversions. For $12? Sure, king me!

Saturday, September 19, 2015

[Review] The Gamemaster's Apprentice Base Deck

I'm a sucker for any product that claims to make a GM's life easier at the gaming table. Adventure creators, GM emulators, story prompts -- I really enjoy having something at-hand to help me through those unexpected "curves" your players toss at you.

"Oh, so you want to enter that room I never wrote up to follow that NPC I never fleshed out? Ohhhhh-kay...."

So I'm very pleased to have discovered The Gamemaster's Apprentice by Nathan Rockwood. This incredibly useful deck of 60 double-backed cards (120 card faces) gives the GM a TON of useful prompts, randomizers, seeds, and details for nearly any gaming occasion I can think of. It can also be used as a GM emulator for solo gaming. The deck is also system and genre-neutral, so you can use it with pretty much any game I can imagine.

Each card offers the GM 14 different "tools" at the table, with each card providing a randomly created element or prompt. If the GM is stuck, he pulls a card and runs with the result on the card. Just LOOK at the sheer number of tools found in the GM's Apprentice:

1. Difficulty Generator: Here, the numbers 1 through 10 randomly appear. Distributed through a bell curve with 5-7 appearing most often as an "average", you can randomly determine how easy (1-4), average (5-7), or difficult (8-10) a given task is.
2. Likely Odds:  Need a yes/no answer to a situation? First determine the likelihood of a positive outcome, then pull a card to see if they succeeded or not.
3. Dice: Each polyhedral dice is here, with an even distribution of outcomes across the 120 faces. (d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, d20, d%). Don't have your dice on hand? Grab a card and find the result instead.
4. Norse Runes: The runes correspond to a handy chart provided in the deck's instructions (provided as a free download). These symbolic prompts are meant to fuel your imagination as needed.
5. Elemental Symbols: The symbols for air, earth, fire, and water can be literal prompts or suggestive for the situation.
6. Random Event Generator: Each line here has a verb-adjective-noun layout. Pull three cards (one for each word) or just read the prompts as written for a random situation prompt!
7. Sensory Prompts: Need to give the players something they can see, hear, smell, or feel in a scene? A random card draw give you some sensory clues for the players to act upon.
8. Tag Symbol: The tags are used for another set of randomizers that correspond to a previously designed list of possible events or encounters, or just for symbolic interpretation.
9. Scatter Die: Need to quickly determine a random direction? Check out the scatter die icon to see which way the path goes, the wind is blowing, or where that grenade landed!
10. Possessions: What's in the NPC's pockets? The handy list gives the GM a way to determine a list of random objects.
11. Names: What is the name of this random NPC? Pull a card an give him/her a quick moniker on the spot.
12. Catalysts: These story prompts push the situation in unexpected directions when needed.
13. Location: Where are they? Where do they need to go? Where is the Macguffin to be found? Each card has a unique location to explore.
14. Virtue and Vice: What's so good/bad about a certain person? What habits do they have. Pull a card and give them some quick quirks.

As you can see, the many uses of these cards is staggering. You can create an NPC on the spot. You can use the deck as a game engine. You can flesh out a random scene or event. Story ideas and seeds can be created with just a few draws of the deck. I'm just beginning to discover the uses this deck has, and it has gone into my travelling game kit. The Gamemaster's Apprentice Deck is available at Drive Through RPG for $10 for a print-your-own version, or $20.00 for a deck of cards. I got the cards, and they're very good, high-quality. Sniderman says check it out.

Monday, September 7, 2015

[Cryptworld] New Thing: Snallygaster

An East-Coast Cryptid  for Cryptworld

STR: 8 (120) --- WPR: 4 (45)
DEX: 6 (90) --- PER: 2 (30)
AGL: 5 (75) --- PCN: 3 (45)
STA: 6 (90) --- PWR: NA
ATT: 1/98% --- WND: 16
MV:  L 50 F 100

Experience: 900

The snallygaster is a cryptid commonly encountered in the northeastern United States, primarily in the Maryland/District of Columbia area. The creature is described as a large flying reptile-like monster. The snallygaster is large enough to easily pick up and fly off with men and livestock, though it prefers smaller game and human children to feed upon.

The snallygaster's beak is described as metallic and able to bite through most hardened substances. Within its mouth is a set of tenticles that is uses to grasp and subdue prey. (It is theorized that these tendrils are actually numerous prehensile "tongues".) Once grappled, the snallygaster flies off to its hidden burrow with its prey in order to feed. (A snallygaster's burrow has a 10% chance of containing 1d10 eggs.)

The creature is somewhat lumbering when on the ground due to its size, but it makes up for its lack of speed when in the air. The snallygaster has a tough leathery hide that repels most bludgeoning attacks (a 20% penalty when attacking it with a blunt object). At the turn of the century, sightings of the snallygaster were so prevalent that President Theodore Roosevelt planned an expedition to capture such a creature. (There are whispered rumors that President Roosevelt was successful, and a stuffed and mounted specimen of the monster is on display somewhere within the White House.)

Urban legend says that a snallygaster flew over an moonshining operation at the turn of the century, and the fumes from the still overcame the creature which came crashing down. It was quickly dispatched as it lay overwhelmed on the forest floor. ICSX members theorize that strong alcohol fumes might be able to subdue the creature. Although sightings of the creature are rare nowadays, DAPA agents have a standing order to monitor for the monster's return due to its proximity to Washington DC.

Friday, September 4, 2015

What Am I Running At Con On The Cob / U-Con This Year?

The fall con season is upon us, and two of my favorite conventions are just around the corner. Ohio's Con on the Cob will be held October 15-18 at its new digs in Brecksville. And Michigan's U-Con Gaming Convention will be held November 20-22 in Ypsilanti. If you're in the area for either of these great gatherings, make plans NOW to attend.

At Con on the Cob, the Goblinoid Games/Pacesetter LTD vendor's booth will once again be present, offering up the complete line of games and supplements for Labyrinth Lord, Mutant Future, Starships & Spacemen, as well as Timemaster, Majus, Rotworld, and Cryptworld. (And there's a good chance the new Cryptworld supplement Monsters Macabre will be available for purchase too!)

As for the games I'll be running at the convention, lots of horror is on the docket!

Cryptworld: “Condition Critical”
Dr. Howard Eastman has called a press conference at his remote research facility to announce a medical breakthrough that will “eradicate human illness and suffering forever.” But what if the cure proves to be worse than the disease?

Cryptworld: “Unquenchable”
Three days ago, a group of hunters failed to return from their annual deer hunt near Akron, Ohio. Your team of expert trackers and investigators have been brought in to assist in the search. But there seems to be an undercurrent of unease amongst the police who whisper of a disturbing discovery they’ve made. Is there something sinister lurking in the forest?
Chill-Black Morn Manor boardgame
Something is loose in Black Morn Manor. Your team of envoys has been dispatched to investigate and (if possible) drive off the unseen evil. Will you succeed, or will you be converted into yet another minion for the creature? Come play this classic Pacesetter boardgame from 1985!

And a month later, I'll be running a bunch of games for U-Con's OSR track, including the following:

Mutant Future: “Thundarr the Barbarian: Warlord of the Sacred Library”
Lords of Light! Drakexx the Unstoppable has established a stronghold in the forbidden Congers Library where thousands of Ancient texts are stored. What use does a warlord have with these tomes, and what secrets does he hope to unlock? The tribal shaman of the village of Linkon has tasked Thundarr, Ookla, and Princess Ariel with stopping and driving out the mindless brute!

Stuper Powers!: “Apocalypse...NOW?!”
Doctor Dredd and his evil team of villains have taken over Washington DC! They plan to start World War III unless your team of "D-list" heroes are able to stop them. Will your ability to "Induce Slight Headaches" and "Turn Things Plaid" be enough to thwart Armageddon? (Nah...probably not...)
Ghostbusters: “Ragnarok-A-Bye Baby”
Judgment Day may be at hand!  In the center of all the chaos and destruction, one place seems untouched – The Wee Tots Nursery School. Could this be the Antichrist’s day care center? The Ghostbusters are mobilized to save the world (and perhaps change a diaper or two)!
Cryptworld: “Wasted”
It's a raucous Saturday night at "Sweet Oblivion," the roadhouse on the outskirts of town. But this night of revelry will turn to horror when Death stops in for a nightcap. Can you survive The Night of The Living Dead (Drunk)?

Stop by and say "Hey" if you're at either of these events!