Sunday, August 30, 2015

RPG-A-DAY 2015 Day 31: Favorite Non-RPG Thing To Come From Gaming...You Folks


Playing RPGs in junior high and high school introduced me to several strangers who became my closest friends. Even now, decades later, we still stay in touch and hang out. When I got back into gaming and began this blog, I again met many strangers who became good friends. When I attend game conventions and run sessions of Thundarr, Mutant Future, Cryptworld, or whatever, I have several players who have become "regulars" who seek out my games to play and hang out with me for a few hours. Again, these folks have become friends as well. I would say that, through RPGing, I have made many, many friends over the years -- folks I never would have met or gotten to know without the "social glue" of sitting down at a table and tossing dice. So what's my "favorite non-RPG thing to come out of gaming"? It would be you folks.

OK, enough shmaltz. Let's go kill some orcs.

RPG-A-DAY 2015 Day 30: Favorite Gaming Celebrity..."Wil"


I found it amusing that this was even a category, until I began to realize just how many celebrities are now flying their "geek flag" high. Steven Colbert is a well-known Tolkien fiend and he has made it known that he loves tabletop gaming. Robin Williams was also a well-known gamer and collector (and he even named his daughter "Zelda" after the classic series). And, of course, Vin Diesel's penchant for D&D is well-documented. But I suppose my favorite gaming celebrity would be the one who brought his love of gaming into the mainstream...Wil Wheaton.

Yup, Wil has turned his love of gaming into a cottage industry. His web series Tabletop is wrapping up Season 3 with a Season 4 just announced. His new series Titansgrave spawned a new RPG and setting that he co-created and co-wrote. Wil's presence at gaming and pop culture conventions across the country is virtually assured, as he can be seen shopping, gaming, and generally geeking out just like everyone else gathered.

Wil's also my favorite gaming celebrity for one other important reason... He and I geeked out over Thundarr the Barbarian back at Gen Con 2012. Anyone with a working knowledge of Thundarr trivia is aces in my book!

RPG-A-DAY 2015 Day 29: Favorite RPG Website/Blog...Google+


Hmmm...this one is tough because my website/blog feed is huge. My "Other Blogs You Gotta Check Out" over there in the right-hand column has 130 entries at last count, and this doesn't even include the various RPG forums I frequent. Honestly, I love each site I visit, and it's hard to single out any one of them as my favorite. However, there is one site I visit several times a day that has become my de facto "favorite" as far as RPG news and conversations....Google+
Google+ appears to have become a global gathering place for gamers and RPGers worldwide. Whenever I visit, I can always count on finding an interesting conversation taking place about a gaming issue I'm interested in. Breaking news of interest is always popping up in my feed. Reviews of old games and announcements of new ones are usually popping up, and -- of course -- every blogger I follow also has a G+ presence, including yours truly. G+ has become my Daily Worldwide Gaming Resource, and I'll bet it's the same for most of you too.

Thursday, August 27, 2015

RPG-A-DAY 2015 Day 28: Favorite Game I No Longer Play...Tales From The Floating Vagabond


The game I no longer play is also one I only played once -- and that I would dearly love to play again. The game is Avalon Hill's Tales From The Floating Vagabond.

I bought the game from my FLGS back in the 90s when I first saw it on the shelf. I was already a big fan of Spider Robinson's Callahan's Crosstime Saloon series, so a comedy RPG that takes place in a wild, weird sci-fi bar setting was one I immediately latched onto. The trouble was that my home game group had zero interest in the game or the setting. Plus it was an Avalon Hill RPG, and a previous bad experience with Lords of Creation soured them on anything from AH that wasn't a wargame. So the game sat on my gameshelf, unplayed.

A year later, I attended Origins Game Fair down in Columbus and I stumbled into a game of Tales From the Floating Vagabond being run. I recall playing a singing cowboy ("Tex Warbler") with The Roy Rogers Shtick -- I could make amazing trick shots, but I could never actually shoot another person. We also had a smooth-talking cyborg janitor, a fast-talking mop salesman, and "Buck Naked" -- a time-travelling nudist. The Bartender (i.e., "GM") ran us through a fast and furious madcap romp that had us breaking into Area 51 to steal a technological artifact to stop the horrific "Genghis Prawn" -- a world-conquering shrimp (yes, the despot of the game was the actual size of an actual shrimp). It was "Monty Python: The RPG". It was funny and weird and crazy and madcap. I had a great time. And...that was it. Although my home group enjoyed my recap of the game I played, they never became interested in the game.

Yes, I'm aware of the upcoming second edition of "Tales..." and -- one day -- I hope I get to play it again!

RPG-A-DAY 2015 Day 27: Two Games Into One...Gonzo Western


Interesting question. I do enjoy games that combine two genres into a brand new category of game. For example:

Horror + Western = Deadlands
Victorian + Sci Fi = Space 1899
Sci Fi + Fantasy = Spelljammer

All good stuff. 

But one of my favorite genres (if it can be described as such) would be Gonzo. "Gonzo" is defined as "crazy, madcap, anarchistic". In other words, games that have a more comedic bent to them. I've even written at length about my love affair with gonzo games. I love games that have a gonzo attitude about them. Paranoia is my "gonzo sci fi" game of choice. Stuper Powers! is my "gonzo supers" game of choice. Ghostbusters would be my "gonzo horror" game of choice. There seems to be a "gonzo" version of pretty much every genre of RPG, except one -- The Gonzo Western.

There are a ton of "gonzo westerns" to illustrate my intent. Just off the top of my head, there's Support Your Local Sheriff/Gunfighter, The Three Amigos, Evil Roy Slade, The Villain, A Million Ways to Die in the West, The Shakiest Gun in the West, Maverick, and They Call Me Trinity/They Still Call Me Trinity.

And, of course, Blazing Saddles.

So the two game genres I'd love to see combined would be the gritty old west action of Boot Hill with the zany antics of Blazing Saddles. I even have a title for it:

Wednesday, August 26, 2015

RPG-A-DAY 2015 Day 26: Favorite Inspiration For Your Game...


I play so many different games in so many different genres, that's it's impossible for me to narrow down my "gaming muse" to just one. So here is a pictorial list of what media inspires me when I'm playing or writing up an adventure:

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

RPG-A-DAY 2015 Day 25: Favorite Revolutionary Game Mechanic...Pacesetter Action Table


There have been a lot of revolutionary game mechanics introduced to RPGs over the years: dice pools, player-directed narrative, THAC0, etc. But my favorite revolutionary game mechanic would have to be this little table:

When I first began playing Pacesetter's Timemaster and Chill back in the 1980s, I thought the Action Table was amazing. Rather than thumbing through a rulebook for every situation, everything you could do in the game could be determined by using one all-encompassing table. Skill checks, hand-to-hand melee, ranged combat, fear checks, ability checks, everything was determined using the Action Table. And since all Pacesetter games used the same Action Table, every game they produced was inter-compatible. So you could have space rebels from Star Ace time-travelling with Time Corps agents from Timemaster to fight The Unknown from Chill. (It was GURPS before GURPS.) I'm also fairly certain other table-based RPGs (TSR's Marvel Superheroes, for example) were inspired by the original Pacesetter Action Table system as well. And with new Pacesetter RPGs like Rotworld, Majus, and Cryptworld, the Action Table continues to run many of my games to this day.

Monday, August 24, 2015

RPG-A-DAY 2015 Day 24: Favorite House Rules...The Bogie Table And Order Of The D30


I have two house rules that I've loved to use at the table over the years -- one from my younger days and one that is currently in play.

The Past: The Bogie List -- Back in my AD&D days, my friends and I were total munchkins, always looking for ways to max out our characters and give them every advantage. We were also horribly unimaginative, as all of characters had zero quirks, traits, backgrounds, or personalities. One of our gaming group had Fantasy Wargaming and within was a "quirks table" -- a list of various personality traits, minor mental and physical abilities, etc. Taking that as a basis, he wrote up his own d100 table which was dubbed "The Bogie Table." Upon rolling up a character, you were allowed an optional 1d4 rolls on The Bogie Table. There were benefits (Freakishly Strong -- Add 1d4 to STR); there were penalties (Clumsy -- Permanent -2 to all To Hit rolls); and there were role-playing prompts (Wanted to be a gardener instead of an adventurer; talks about plants and lawncare all the time). The Bogie Table was a fun way to prompt us into more role-playing and less die rolling. We also, surprisingly, looked forward to detrimental quirks as it gave us something fun to act out.

The Present: The Order of the D30 -- Nowadays, with any d20-based game I play, I always have a d30 on hand as well. Spearheaded by Richard LeBlanc, The Order of the D30 encourages use of the oft-overlooked die. The d30 houserule The Order introduced to me is as follows: "Once per game session, a player may choose to roll the d30 in lieu of any other dice roll. This cannot be used during character creation, however, nor for hit point rolls." I use this at convention games all of the time, as everyone loves the chance to roll 1d30 for dagger damage. Or perhaps using it for their To Hit Roll, knowing I multiple any damage done for every number over 20 they roll. (I once had someone roll a 28 to hit, so I let them roll 8X damage. That 10 hp sword hit became an 80 hp critical OMG hit. Many epic games have hinged on the devastating roll of the d30!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

RPG-A-DAY 2015 Day 23: Perfect Game For Me...


Today's question is simple. What's the perfect game for me? Well, my gaming time is so limited, that the "perfect game" is any game I happen to be playing. 

Friday, August 21, 2015

RPG-A-DAY 2015 Day 22: Perfect Gaming Environment...NTRPG Con's Boardroom


I initially thought this question was a no-brainer. Of course the answer is "a rec-room and/or finished basement". I believe most of us played our first RPGs in what passes for the modern-day equivalent to a home's "dungeon." My first games were played in Roger's basement around an old dining room table. It was dank, dark, and dusty, and we LOVED it down there. When you think of the classic "gaming environment," this is probably what comes to mind.

However, the question asked for the perfect gaming environment, and so -- upon reflection -- I came up with a better answer. When I attended North Texas RPG Con in June 2014, my games of Timemaster and Cryptworld were scheduled for one of the boardrooms. I didn't have to share this room with five other games going on. It was all ours. And it had EVERY amenity you could want in a gaming room:

  • A large rounded table with plenty of room for eight players and a GM
  • Big comfy leather swivel chairs
  • A monstrous erasable whiteboard on the wall for mapping and sketches visible by everyone
  • Wait staff stopping by every hour to bring us sodas, snacks, and food
  • Privacy, so there was no need to shout over other games in progress

The games I ran in that room were two of the most comfortable games I've run, well, anywhere! So, in the spirit of the question, I must say that the boardroom at North Texas RPG Con was indeed the "perfect" gaming environment!

RPG-A-DAY 2015 Day 21: Favorite RPG Setting...Post-Apocalypse USA


Truth be told, I've never had a favorite RPG setting -- at least from a "commercial" standpoint. None of the classic gaming worlds and settings ever appealed to me. Didn't care for Dragonlance. Didn't like Forgotten Realms or Greyhawk. Thought the world of Ravenloft was kinda neat, but I wouldn't call it a favorite. There have been other RPG settings that I enjoyed, such as Paranoia's Alpha Complex, Planescape's Sigil, Dark Sun's Athas, DCC's Shudder Mountains, and Middle Earth (of course).

So, to stretch the definition of "favorite RPG setting," I'm going to name a genre setting instead -- post-apocalyptic Earth, specifically the ruins of the U.S. years after The Big Whoops. Ever since seeing the rusted remains of the Statue of Liberty in that final iconic scene in The Planet of The Apes, I've been enthralled by seeing the ruins of famous landmarks and cities. Heck, Thundarr the Barbarian traveled to a different region each week, and I always thought it was cool recognizing the remnants of Las Vegas, Washington DC, San Francisco, etc. When I run a game of Mutant Future, I always center it in the ruins of major metropolitan area, just for the reaction of the players as they suddenly realize WHERE the game takes place.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

[Kickstarter] The Complete Oracle AD&D Fanzine Reprint From 1982-83

One of my favorite gaming archival organizations is the Play Generated Map & Document Archive (PlaGMaDA) which takes materials created by players and GMs and gives these handcrafted gaming treasures a home. (I even made a donation of my own to the archives.) Every so often, Tim Hutchinson of PlagMaDa will compile some of these materials into a new supplement for players, collectors, and gaming historians. His most recent Kickstarter was the amazing "Habitition of the Stone Giant Lord and Other Adventures From Our Shared Youth" that collected eight D&D modules written by players during the D&D heydays of the 70s and 80s.

Tim has launched a new Kickstarter for another amazing compilation -- this one collects all five issues of "The Oracle," a D&D fanzine from 1982-83 featuring new character classes, new adventures, new rules, as well as movie/game reviews and original fiction. This new compilation looks to be 200 pages and will be a limited-run hardbound book for collectors. Within 24 hours, the fundraising met its goal, and now Tim is adding new stretch goals to the project including more supplementary material and the only issue of The Augury -- a companion 'zine to The Oracle.

I love stuff like this. I love homemade gaming materials. I love 'zines. And a hardback collection of D&D gaming zines from the 80s? Count me in. If you have a similar tastes, you should absolutely help fund this slice of gaming's past -- a past you can bring to your table and play!

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

RPG-A-DAY 2015 Day 20: Favorite Horror RPG...Pacesetter Chill / Cryptworld


Pacesetter Chill (First Edition) / Cryptworld

Timemaster was my first Pacesetter RPG. Once my group got the hang of the Action Table, we fell in love with the simplicity of the system. Wanting to cut our teeth on some horror gaming, it was only natural that we picked up and began playing Chill.

Chill's theme struck an immediate chord with my group. Rather than fighting creatures we were never going to defeat (Call of Cthulhu) or becoming the monsters ourselves (Nightlife), Chill put the players in the roles of monster hunters who might actually be able to WIN versus The Unknown. Chill's THINGS were also familiar horror tropes -- vampires, werewolves, mummies -- rather than undefinable Lovecraftian horrors, which was great for my non-Lovecraft-reading friends. For years, our brave team of secret SAVE members fought back the evil encroaching upon the living world.

When Chill 2e by Mayfair came along, I never really got into it. I think primarily it's because the Action Table was abandoned (sacrilege!), but also that the feel and theme of the game moved away from the "movie monster horror" genre I so dearly loved. So I stuck with classic Chill 1e, collecting all of Pacesetter's products and modules, and running games at conventions over the years to keep the classic horror flame alive.

Nowadays, those players who love the Chill RPG -- either 1e or 2e -- have even MORE horrific gaming choices. There's a new third edition of Chill that picked up where the Mayfair edition left off. And, of course, Pacesetter Action Table horror gaming has been revitalized by Goblinoid Games with the release of Cryptworld -- a game I'm proud to have had a hand in.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

RPG-A-DAY 2015 Day 19 Favorite Supers RPG....Villains & Vigilantes

Villains & Vigilantes

As I explained on Day 15, Villains & Vigilantes was the second RPG I ever played, and it became a very well-played and well-loved game for my group. Everything just "clicked" with us: the straight-out-the-Silver-Age comic book artwork and a system that encouraged "play as yourself" PCs. V&V also had amazing support, as there were a TON of modules released for the game. (I should know -- we played them all.) And while my other players wrote new monsters and adventures for D&D, I was busy designing supervillian bases to infiltrate and new evil overlords to overthrow. And after nearly 30 years, I still have my original V&V rulebook from my teens -- now signed by Jeff Dee.

Monday, August 17, 2015

RPG-A-DAY 2015 Day 18: Favorite Sci Fi RPG....Timemaster



I love the pulp space opera-ness of WEG's Star Wars, and classic Traveller has some sci-fi crunchiness to it I enjoy, but time travel RPGs scratch a certain "itch" of mine, and none does it better than Pacesetter's Timemaster. The concept of travelling through history and policing the timeline is one that sets my imagination afire. Been a fan of the game since the 1980's, so I'm thrilled that it's traveled through time itself, to be returned to duty by Goblinoid Games.

In fact, I've run a few games at conventions over the years and have written up a couple of adventures for Timemaster. Here you go:

The Day The Sky Fell -- It's 1979 and Topeka, Kansas, has been burned off the face of the Earth. Surviving victims claim they saw the Sun itself cut a path of destruction through the city, killing tens of thousands. Tensions between the U.S. and USSR have never been higher, and World War III is imminent unless Time Corps agents can determine what happened and stop it before it ever occurred!

Postage Due -- An undelivered letter in mid-1800 America has thrown the timeline into chaos. What does this single piece of correspondence contain that makes it so critical to future events? Time Corps agents will be dispatched to the point of incursion to ensure the mail goes through!

RPG-A-DAY 2015 Day 17: Favorite Fantasy RPG...Adv. Dungeons & Dragons


Advanced Dungeons and Dragons
My first RPG. My longest single game. Decades of memories, adventures,and fun.

Sunday, August 16, 2015

RPG-A-DAY 2015 Day 16: Longest Game Session Played...96 Hours Of AD&D


During summer break of my junior year of high school, my D&D group met every weekend to play. Sometimes Friday night, sometimes Saturday, sometimes overnight...1983 was a banner year for dungeon delving. At one point in the campaign, we reached the "endgame" -- our final confrontation with the evil anti-paladin who had been the bane of our games all summer. (Who was based on Frazetta's Death Dealer, per 1980's RRPG gaming cliches.) Since it was getting late, we ended the night's gaming at that point, and made plans to get together on a Thursday afternoon to start The Grand Finale. On Thursday, we gathered at Roger's house, around the game table in the basement. We had brought many 2 liter bottles of cheap store-brand cola, a dozen bags of chips, and 40 cheeseburgers from Burger King. We had all made arrangements with our respective parents that we wouldn't be home until the Bad Guy was dead. Oddly enough, all of our parents were fine with this.

And the dice began to fly.

We stormed his castle defenses. We slaughtered his undead army. We defended the village at the foot of the mountain. Sometime Friday afternoon -- after 24 hours -- we all crashed for about 4 hours and slept. When we got up, we took our places at the table and began where we left off.

We fought his second-in-command -- a lich necromancer. We traversed the Negative Material Plane to retrieve a magical artifact to defeat him. His ghoul legions fell at our feet. We blew up his tower fortress. We ate cheeseburgers, and we crashed again for a few hours.

We woke Sunday at 5 am, and we drank soda and rolled dice and yelled and gamed and shouted and IT WAS EPIC. It was Gaming Nirvana. It was fighting the good fight. It was hanging out with good friends. It was the end of an awesome story.

By Monday morning, we were half-crazed with sleep deprivation and malnutrition. But we put an end to the anti-paladin once and for all, as he dissolved into a sticky puddle upon the final blow. (Though there was an eerie laughter floating on the breeze, hinting that we'd only banished him until a future showdown.) I think I slept for 3 days afterward, but that gaming session will never be surpassed for sheer concentrated awesomeness.

RPG-A-DAY 2015 Day 15: Longest Campaign Played...A 10-Year-Long V&V Game


I had a verrry long-running Villains & Vigilantes campaign that ran through both my high school and college years. By my figurin', it was a campaign that ran nearly 10 years.

The campaign started in 1982 when I picked up the V&V boxed set at The Panzer Hut -- the local FLGS at the time. I was a sophomore in high school at the time, and my group had been playing a lot of AD&D. As a change of pace, we decided to get some superhero action going, so we rolled up characters and started with the classic Crisis at Crusader Citadel. When the smoke cleared, our team of Grav-Man, Metamorph, The Arachnid Kid, and Brainwave (yours truly) had rescued the Crusaders and established our own supergroup -- The Guardians.

With the establishment of a supergroup, we had a rotating membership of other supers (ie, players) who would drop in and out of the campaign depending on availability and interest. Some of the team members I can recall were Grav-Man, Seeker, Metamorph, Brainwave, Gadget, The Arachnid Kid, Sparrowhawk, and Apparition. (And I've mentioned Puzzler in previous posts.) We played through nearly every V&V module released. During the height of the Satanic Panic, we even played an in-campaign V&V game for a class project to show what "role-playing" actually was. That's right...we played V&V during school as a class presentation FOR CREDIT.

Eventually, we went our separate ways post-high-school. However, in college, I found a new group of RPGers. I suggested V&V, and they were game for it. Even though they started with new characters and a new base, as the GM, I created their campaign to dovetail into the world I had already created in high school. Events that happened to them were continuations of events that happened in my HS game. And on those rare occasions when the HS group got together, their games neatly dovetailed into the college campaign world. This went on until around 1992 when the campaign kind of petered out.

Sadly, I was never able to work out how to get both groups together for one big final Secret Wars-type mega-crossover. But it would've been awesome.

Saturday, August 15, 2015

Nightmares Surfacing For Cryptworld's "Monsters Macabre" Supplement

A new update at the "Monsters Macabre" Kickstarter page confirms that artwork is starting to come in for Cryptworld's new supplement! Dan Proctor has posted some of Mark Allen's terrifying artwork for the book, which is on target for release next month. It's very exciting to see the newest book in the Pacesetter LTD line of games taking form. Those of you who submitted new THINGS for the book, and those of you who supported the Kickstarter, take a look at what creatures are crawling out from the shadows:

Thursday, August 13, 2015

RPG-A-DAY 2015 Day 14: Favorite RPG Accessory...The Noteboard

My preferred method of GMing is to sketch out a scene for the players on the fly. In the past, I had an erasable whiteboard I'd take to games and conventions. It was cumbersome, heavy, and kinda small. My purchase of The Noteboard changed all that. For $10.00 (plus shipping), I have a 3' x 1.5' foldable whiteboard that is erasable, sizable, and completely portable. It's the best gaming accessory purchase I've ever made.

My Noteboard in action at Gary Con