Monday, December 7, 2020

Zombies Shuffle Back Home: My Reacquisition Of SPI's Dawn Of The Dead Game

Back in 1980, I was 13 or 14 years old and was just starting to discover what my hobbies and interests were going to be. I liked monster movies, and board games, and late night TV, and other campy-type entertainment. I hadn't yet discovered RPGs, but I was beginning to discover boardgames. But not just games like Sorry or Monopoly and Scrabble. I was starting to fiddle around with wargames. Even though I wasn't interested in combat or world history, I loved the simulation aspect of moving little chits around a map and rolling dice for outcomes. Names like Avalon Hill, Metagaming, and Steve Jackson were on my radar.

One day, I stopped by the local toy shop and saw what would become one of my deepest gaming loves: SPI's "Dawn of the Dead" boardgame (1978). Now at that age, I don't think I'd seen the Romero classic yet, but I had a friend with a Fangoria subscription, so I knew alllllll about it. A game that simulated a horror movie with cannibal undead? My mind reeled at the idea and I plunked down all of my pocket money for the game. My brother (who was likely 9 at the time) had no interest in the game, and we lived out in the country, so neighbors and local kids were nonexistent. But this game had a SOLO mode! I could play AGAINST the game. Once again, my eyes were opened to gaming possibilities I never dreamed of.

Flash-forward 8 or 9 years later. I'm now in college. My well-loved and well-played copy of DotD went to campus with me, still complete (though the box was held together with tape by now). The campus game center was my second home, and by now I had discovered D&D, Call of Cthulhu, and other RPGs, so boardgaming happened a lot less for me. I had a bit of money troubles (as all college kids do), and the gamestore owner - knowing of my DotD game (and its collectible value even back then) - made me a generous offer. So I sold it off without regret. Ok, a LOT of regret. 

Over the years, this game's always been in the back of my mind. I loved playing it. Sure, there are a ton of solo zombie boardgames now with better production, better rules, and deeper gameplay. Hell, you can even download and create your own fanmade DotD game, if you wish. But I really wanted to get this back in hand. Recently, I had a stack of trade-ins at Noble Knight - one of my favorite online gamestores - and they had a used copy of DotD available. That's all I needed to know. My trade-ins were sent in, approved, credit was was spent, and now I have SPI's Dawn of the Dead back in hand - where it shall remain.

I plan to spend the next few weeks getting reacquainted with the game and trying to keep Fran, Peter, Steve, and Roger safe from the zombie hordes invading the Monroeville Mall. And the game will have a place of honor on my shelf next to other cherished games from my youth: Mayfair's Family Business (1989), Mayfair's Encounters (1982), and Dark House's Dark Cults (1983).

Wednesday, August 5, 2020

[GameHack] Improving Game Pieces For Reanimator By Dynamite Entertainment

One of my favorite hobbies is playing boardgames. One of my favorite side-hobbies is tinkering with or improving those same games. I'll create new content or rules for them, or sometimes I'll tweak the game's components to make the playing experience more interesting. Today's project describes the tweaks I made to my copy of Reanimator by Dynamite Entertainment.

A quick overview of the game: You (and a few friends, if you have them) are assistants to Herbert West as he attempts to perfect his reanimator serum. You roam the streets of Arkham, picking up ingredients, research, and corpses for your ghoulish experiments, while avoiding the city watch (as well as any undead you've accidentally let loose). You play through three acts for each player, then attempt to improve the serum. At the end of six rounds, you have one final experiment to finalize the process and either create the perfect formula...or die at the hands of the undead horde you've unleashed.

The game has many nifty 3D buildings that represent the town of Arkham, which is a neat selling point. However, the rest of the components are tokens and chits to represent your health, sanity, the undead, tomes you find, etc. Even Herbert West and the city watch are simple standees. This will not do. So I purchased some bit and pieces here and there and here are the improvements I've made to my "raising the undead" experience:

First, you start with six health and six sanity tokens. Why fool around with 12 easily-lost tokens when one red and one blue die can make an easier-to-use substitute. Just use them to countdown toward death and/or insanity.

For the cadavers/undead, I bought some generic zombie figs. (They glow in the dark too!) If they're laying down, they're cadavers used in experiments. If they're standing upright, they're undead now walking the streets of Arkham.

Tome and ingredient tokens? Feh, how about 3D tomes and small satchels instead! Picked these up from Gamecrafter's Board Game Candy site. (Got the zombies there too.)

For Herbert West and the city watch, I grabbed a couple of DC Heroclix from eBay. Shown here are a Cadmus Scientist and Police Sergeant. I'll swap out their bases for regular mini bases later, but they are a LOT better than the standees.

The Kickstarter for the Reanimator game had a gamemat you could buy that represented the streets of Arkham. I've checked and the mat is no longer available. So I picked up a generic cobblestone gamemat from Frontline Gaming. (Usually used for mini games.)

Put them all together and you have a more immersive Arkham to explore as you play!

Just don't let the city watch track you down and end your research!

Tuesday, August 4, 2020

A Note To Players: The GM Doesn't Need Your "Help"

Hey gang,

Today’s blog post is a bit of a rant session, so if you would rather read a game review or get a new monster for your RPG, this isn’t the post for you. If, however, you’d like to read the tirade of a frustrated GM, feel free to read on.

(One note: I’m paraphrasing and writing in generalities so that I don’t specifically ID or call out anyone. I may have been pissed when I wrote this, but I’m not 100% a dick.)

I had prepped a couple of online games for one of the conventions that was shifting to a virtual presence this year. I made contact with all players, sent out character sheets, and games were scheduled to begin later in the week. A few days later, one of the players contacted me as follows:

“Hi there. I finally got a chance to look over the character you sent me, and I must say, I’m underwhelmed. Do you run a particularly hardcore game with high stakes? If not, he’s not likely to survive. Looking at his hit points, he only has 6. Per the rulebook [snipped math calculations -TS] means this is the absolute minimum he can have. Also, he only has two mutations (one of them Infrasight, which is pretty useless) and, again, according to the rules [more snippage -TS] is the average number of mutations he could have. If you’re trying to have a fun con game, I find it odd you’d provide me with a character who is weak in every possible way. However, I can make it work, but just wanted to point this out to you.”

Huh. OK, so I wrote back and explained that the character was a straight random generation with no GM finagling. I also explained that the character in question had been played in three other games without fatality. In fact, the PC’s other mutation had been instrumental in those games. But if the player wanted another character, I’d send them one.

They wrote back:

“Thanks for the reply. I would suggest in the future that the characters you provide be more substantial for your players so they have more options to work with at the table. For example, when I run a game, I make sure to [snipped suggestions on how to “improve” PCs -TS]. However, I can make this character work, and it will probably be fun to play someone with these many detriments!”

Realizing they were not gonna let this go, I rolled up a new character that had more hit points, better ability scores, and four or five mutations. I sent it to the player as a replacement.

They wrote back:

“Hey, I said I was happy to play the character you sent me. If you’re being passive-aggressive about this, I don’t appreciate it. If you have something to say, just say it. Don’t beat around the bush.”

I snapped, and sent the following reply:

“I was willing to give you a new character because you’ve written to me twice now just to complain about what a crappy character you got. But if you want plain speak, here it is: I found your first email both insulting and condescending. The only passive-aggressiveness is coming from your direction. ‘My character sucks, but I’ll begrudgingly play it if I have to.’ Would you have launched into this diatribe if we had initially met at the table at a convention? Probably not. Your next email was telling me how I could do things better, as if I needed advice on how to improve the adventure I’ve written and run several times before. But the phrase that was over the line was, ‘If you’re trying to have a fun con game…’. I’m not ‘trying’ to have a fun game. I *do* have one. After 35 years of GMing at conventions, I think I have a pretty good notion on how to do it. And I’m stressed out enough trying to juggle 11 other players remotely without unsolicited advice on how I can ‘improve’ things.”

I wrapped up by saying all they needed to do was point out the PC seemed weak and if they could play something else or up the hit points a bit. Not a problem; I would’ve been happy to swap them out. But I didn’t need or want their unsolicited criticism.

The player must’ve been chastised or just didn’t see how they were coming across as they did send an apology as well as an offer to drop out of the game. It became a moot point as I needed to cancel my events due to a personal issue that surfaced.

Now that I have that off my chest, let me remind everyone that – even though we’ve moved to the slightly less personal “online world” – we still need to treat folks the way we’d treat them in person across the game table. GMs, your players have sought you out for the sole reason of having a good time. Treat them with respect because they’ve put their trust in you. Players, your GM has created a world for you to explore. Treat them with respect because they’ve put their trust in you.

Saturday, July 25, 2020

2020: My Busiest Convention Year Ever?

Because I live in the middle of a gaming "black hole", it's tough for me to get to the table without driving an hour north or south of my present location. And, as all GMs know, trying to get a game together remotely is like herding cats. That's why I try to attend two or three conventions every year. It's where I'm guaranteed to have full tables of eager players ready to play. This year's global C19 pandemic squelched that, by cancelling face-to-face tabletop gaming events worldwide.

Or did it?

The first scheduled event this year I was planning to attend was Gary Con, which was also one of the first directly affected (i.e., shut down) by the pandemic. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth from the gaming community as we all saw the writing on the wall for the rest of the year. However, in an inspiring show of community and never-say-die, the Gary Con staff and organizers hurriedly assembled "Virtual Gary Con", which became solely an online convention. Admittedly, I had never run an online event before, nor had I played in one as I'm admittedly a grognard about such things. But I also wanted to show my support for a convention that I really enjoy and that was having a tough time this year. So I studied up, signed up for a Zoom account, and ran four online games over the weekend.

Shortly thereafter, Goodman Games wanted to test the online waters (and support Tabletop Events) by hosting their own virtual event, Cyclops Con! It's no secret I really enjoy their Mutant Crawl Classics line so - once again - I signed up and ran three more games online. A little less than two months later, Goodman Games' DCC Days expanded to encompass an online event as well, and thus DCC Days Online was launched. And, yet again, I ran three more online games.

So, for those of you who need help with the math, in 5 months, I went from an online gaming know-nothing to running 10 online events with a running time of around 40 hours. And next week, I'm running two events for Gen Con Online - each 4 hours long - taking me to 48 hours of gaming. Heck, even in my best convention-attending years, I've never run that many accumulated hours in a year.

And the year's not even close to being over. Here's hoping I see you at the virtual table this year.

Sunday, July 12, 2020

Online Gaming Back in 1983? Yup, Welcome To "CB D&D"

It's fairly plain to see that the world of gaming is going to be online for the foreseeable future. Sure, I miss going to conventions and face-to-face table gaming. And I've heard more than one person lament that they refuse to try remote game sessions as "it's not the same." But to those folks, I gotta tell you you're really missing out as remote gaming has been around since gaming started. (In fact, I found an interesting article that suggests chess was played remotely via correspondence as far back as the 9th century!) In fact, yours truly is an old hand at remote gaming...

I recall playing by mail back in the 1980s, where I gave several of the games run by Flying Buffalo a try (still going strong today!), and I even played Silverdawn over the course of a summer back then. But my favorite session of playing remotely was the time I played D&D over my CB radio.

My first car was a 1972 Ford Pinto handed down to me from my mom. No AC, black plastic interior, AM radio (that didn't work), but it had a CB radio that still worked left over from the 1970's CB radio craze. I used it to listen to truckers gabbing as they passed by my house on the interstate about 1/4 mile away.

Anyway, during our weekly D&D game, my cleric (Brother Jarrod) got separated from the rest of the party deep in a long-forgotten crypt. My DM, Roger, decided he would run the two groups separately until they met up again. Due to circumstances, he and I were unable to get together that week. And my parents made it clear that tying up the phone line playing D&D ws out of the question. Roger, who lived about 5 miles from me, remembered that I had a CB radio in my car.

"Hey, I think I have a CB base unit down in the basement," he said. "How about we do this over the CB?" I thought it was a great idea, so around 7 pm on a Tuesday night (school was out for the summer), I got in my car, laid my character sheet and dice on the passenger seat, fired up the CB, and Roger and I played a one-on-one game over the airwaves. My handle was "Brother Jarrod", and he was "The Overlord", as I recall. We followed CB protocol as best as we could, finding an open channel (so we wouldn't tie up "real" communications), and ending each statement with "over."

"I listen at the door. Do I hear anything? Over."

"Nope, it sounds empty. Over."

"OK, I swing open the door and charge in! Over."

We got through a few rooms, and I managed to not die in combat as a lone 3rd level cleric lost in a tomb. Roger said, off in the distance, I saw a glimmer of torchlight - likely the rest of the party. (Over.) So I ran to meet back up with them (Over.), thus ending the session. The CB game probably lasted about 2 hours and was tons of fun. And, of course, just as we were wrapping up and signing off, an amused laughing voice broke in...

"What the hell are you two kids doing on this channel? Playing some kinda game?"

Yup, it was "some kinda game", all right! Over.

"Quill Noir: Forgotten Case Files" Supplement for Quill Noir RPG Now Available

I knocked on the chief inspector’s office door and walked in before the invite. He glanced up from a stack of paperwork, an annoyed grimace on his face.

“Just returning the Henderson case file,” I said, holding up the tattered Manila folder. The chief wordlessly hooked his thumb toward the row of file cabinets lining one wall and went back to his Sisyphean task. I crossed to the cabinets, opened drawer “G-H-I”, and wedged it back into position. While doing so, my eyes fell upon several red folders stuffed in the back. I wrestled to pull them out and, once freed, I laid them across the tops of the cabinets. There were 10 folders in all, labeled “Case 1” through “Case 10”.

“Hey chief? What are these?” I asked over my shoulder.

“Huh? Oh, those,” came the chief’s bored reply. “Those are cold case files. Unsolved.”

I scowled at the thought. I don’t like the idea of someone getting away with committing a crime. It makes my overly developed sense of justice itchy. “Mind if I take these and give ’em a gander?” I asked. “Maybe I can open up some new leads.”

Once again, the chief glanced up, shrugged, and hooked his thumb toward the door, inviting me to exit. I bundled up the red folders and took my leave…


Quill Noir: Forgotten Case Files is a scenario supplement for use with Quill: A Letter-Writing Roleplaying Game for a Single Player and Quill Noir. To use this supplement, both the Quill rulebook and Quill Noir are necessary. Quill Noir: Forgotten Case Files takes place in the world of Quill Noir, a time reflecting 1930s pulp crime fiction novels and 1940s detective films. Quill Noir: Forgotten Case Files presents 10 new cases for would-be gumshoes and flatfoots to solve. You may find yourself investigating art fraud; rescuing someone from a burning building; testifying on the witness stand; or escaping from thugs who want to put you in a Chicago overcoat. 

Quill Noir: Forgotten Case Files is now available at Drive Through RPG. (A copy of Quill: A Letter-Writing Roleplaying Game for a Single Player and Quill Noir is required to play.)  Quill, Quill Noir, and Quill Noir: Forgotten Case Files are available as Pay What You Want releases, so try before you buy, if you prefer. Also, all have been released under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International license.

Saturday, June 13, 2020

DCC Days Is Here! Play DCC/MCC All Weekend Long And Support Your FLGS Too!

DCC Days is upon us, so get to your FLGS for DCC-related goodies and plant yourself in front of your computer screen for online games and fun! 

Similar yet bigger and more focused than Cyclops Con last month,  DCC Days grew from DCC Day (singular) which was to be a one-day, in-store celebration of Goodman Games' product line. Your FLGS would provide freebies and new Goodman products and swag (ala Free RPG Day) as well as run in-store games and demos. Well, COVID-19 put the kibosh on in-store games, so the folks at Goodman expanded the gaming to the online realm. So this weekend sees online games of Dungeon Crawl Classics, Mutant Crawl Classics, etc., but if you want the goodies and swag, you must venture forth and visit the stores (who, in turn, could really use your business at this time).

Last night I ran a team of four mighty mutants into The Desk in Room 8-10, and Sunday, I'll be running two more MCC games: Plague From Below and The Albuquerque Starport (yes, the classic Gamma World adventure)! As the social isolation continues, I'm really getting the hang of online gaming, which allows me to play with folks from across the country and around the world. And events like Cyclops Con, DCC Days Online, Virtual Gary Con, and others to come later this year continue to bring us together while we remain apart. 

And now a few photos of DCC Days thus far!

Remember, when you go out, be sure to wear a mask!

Another band of micro-mutants tackling the dangers to be found within The Desk in Room 8-10!

Visited my FLGS and picked up a few DCC Day goodies, including the exclusive adventure "Shadow of the Beakmen" and a compilation Adventure Pack with 3 adventures for DCC, DCC-Lankhmar, and MCC!

I also picked up The Princess Bride RPG as I love the movie, heard the game was good, and wanted to support the store while there getting freebies.

Also, my nifty new toxic waste rusted drum arrived today in the mail. Perfect for holding any radioactive debris during those MCC games.

And my homemade nametag for the event. 

Sunday, May 24, 2020

[Review] The Spirit Coin - The Pocket Diviner, Decision Maker, And GM Tool

Quick: Come up with the name of a wood elf your PCs just encountered. OK, now come up with his motivation as to why he's in this desolate area. Can he be trusted? And how far away is the nearest inn from here?

At the table, the GM is tasked with coming up with a lot of answers on the fly. Sure, you could refer to tables you have on hand or rely on your own imagination (although "Steve the Drow" might raise eyebrows). Or you could summon The Spirits to answer these queries through the use of The Spirit Coin.
Created by Alex Kool and launched on Kickstarter, The Spirit Coin is like a portable Ouija Board. The two sides of the coin have four circles: the two outer circles contain the alphabet (consonants and vowels, respectively); the next contains the numbers 0-9 (odd/even); and the inner-most is YES/NO. The user takes the coin in hand and concentrates on the question. Turn the coin in your hand and randomly seek out the answers you need. For example, taking the questions from above (and I swear these are legit from The Coin):

Elf name? ETWIN - That sounds good, so "Etwin" it is.
Motivation? HRNWND - I see "Horn Wind", so I'll say he's on a quest to find The Horn of Winds. He's a sailor and he can use this item to propel his vessel.
Trustworthy? NO - I see our new friend is up to some mischief. Perhaps he mistakenly thinks the PCs possess the item, and he wishes to fight them for it?
Nearest inn? 2 miles from here. And Etwin will accompany his new friends (in hopes of prying The Horn from their hands!).

The Spirit Coin is solidly made of heavy metal and comes in two finishes, bronze and silver. I've taken mine and placed it in my dice bag for those moments when I need quick answers from The Spirits. (Usually at the game table, but you also never know when some otherworldly guidance may come in handy!) The Spirit Coin is now available on Etsy for $15 (with free shipping). I've found this to be very useful during writer's block or as a random prompt for all types of situations, so for GMs who could use a bit of spiritual guidance at the table, go grab one!

Sunday, April 19, 2020

Cyclops Con Days 1-3: Seminars, Games, And Mutants-Mutants-Mutants!

As readers of The Savage AfterWorld knows, with every game convention I've attended, I have filed a daily travelogue so folks who couldn't make it would be able to game vicariously through my thoughts, photos, and amusing anecdotes. Welp, just as I did with Virtual Gary Con a few weeks ago, I'm filing today's report from Cyclops Con! (AKA, my basement and home office.)

Cyclops Con was founded, formed, and launched this weekend by Goodman Games to celebrate all things DCC, as well as give home-stranded gamers an outlet for those RPG frustrations. Since I began an old hat at online judging at VGC (or so I think), I decided to throw caution to the wind and run 18 mutants through my three Mutant Crawl Classics adventures - one available, one coming out next month, and one that got an initial playtest at this event!

As usual with these little travelogues, I'll share what I've seen and done to give you a feel for what's going on each day I attend. However, since the "seen and done" mostly takes place in one room of my house, I'll combine all three days into this missive.

And here we go:
  • DAY ONE: After I got home from work Friday evening, I fired up the old laptop and ran six folks through my MCC 0-level funnel "Dead in the Water." I've been running this for years now, but I always get a kick out of bringing new folks into the hazards of The Island of Fire. By the time the game ended, I had killed off nearly half of the 0-level fodder, and the highlight occurred when one brave zero-level nobody took a deep breath, ran through a forcefield and onto the ocean floor, and stabbed a giant squid in the eye with a trident. Not only did the ocean depths not instantly crush him, he delivered the killing blow to The Sea-Wraith, and the survivors were welcomed back as heroes!
  • DAY TWO: Today's game was "The Desk in Room 8-10" - a small adventure (Ha!) I've written to be released next month on DCC Day. The team managed to fight their way into The Underdrawer where they met the remaining memebers of a previous Seeker team as well as held off The Ravenous Ones until they could repair MICRON to end the experiment! (Yes, I realize this is vaugue, but you'll have to play the game to put the pieces together!
  • Later that evening, I joined up with other Goodman fans (as well as with Joe himself!) at the Boulder Tossers bar, where we gabbed about our respective gaming backgrounds and kicked back with a few cold drinks. (My beverage of choice that night was a frosty Yoo Hoo.)
  • DAY THREE: Today was the day I led six excited players through the premiere run of "Plague From Below." While visiting a neighboring village, a mysterious illness began to overtake the village council. The team was tasked with finding a cure for this ailment at a recently uncovered Ancient medical complex. Skyhooks, Time Wolves, Virii, and a "helpful" med-bot named MORT provided the cure to the ailment. (Exc ept there was one last issue to take care of upon returning.) The players enjoyed the game and I got some valuable feedback on where to tighten up some plotlines.
  • Due to some technical glitches (as well as losing track of time), I was unable to attend DCC College. However, right behind it was Joe's "What's New at Goodman Games" seminar. He shared news and artwork from upcoming projects such as Xcrawl Classics, Empire of the East, and Dying Earth. He discussed DCC Day (still scheduled for next month, but some alterations could occur during the pandemic crisis). The item that stunned me was the announcement of the next in the Original Adventures Reincarnated line: "The Temple of Elemental Evil"! And finally, he discussed the new ways that Goodman Games is embracing VTT gaming with artwork and adventure support for Roll20 and Fantasy Grounds rolling out. A lot of incredibly exciting things are coming from the Goodman Gang, so keep an eye open!
  • One special treat, I recorded my game of "Plague From Below," so if you'd like to see some mutant mayhem, click this link to be taken to the video!
And, finally, as the online event comes to a close and my screen's phosphor dot slowly fades, here are some random shots from throughout the event:

Joe Goodman presents "What's New With Goodman Games"

My visit to the Boulder Tossers after hours lounge had gamers from across the country and around the world in attendance!

The players first encountered the pseudoscorpion in "The Desk in Room 8-10"!

Holy crow! The Temple of Elemental Evil has been announced as the next adventure in the OAR series!

Several MCC mutants found themselves "Dead in the Water"!

During my visit to Boulder Tossers, I inked up my MCC dice, adding gold paint to the high digits to tel them apart.

For this event, I cracked open a case of the finest chocolate-milk-like beverage money can buy!

I love the shirt designed for this year;s Cyclops Con!

And my homemade badge to commemorate the event. Thanks everyone at Goodman Games for a great time!

Wednesday, April 15, 2020

Cyclops Con: All Dungeon/Mutant Crawl Classics! All Weekend Long!

This weekend, keep an eye out for Cyclops Con! (Ha! See what I did there with "eye"? Because a cyclops only ahem.) Cyclops Con is the brainchild of the Dark Forces at Goodman Games who are holding a weekend-long online convention revolving around their many role-playing games: Dungeon Crawl Classics, Mutant Crawl Classics, XCrawl, Fifth Edition Fantasy, and any versions and derivatives thereof!

I've recently taken a shine to MCC RPG, creating material for the game for the annual Gongfarmer's Almanac as well as my own 0-level funnel, "Dead in the Water." So this weekend, I'll be running three adventures I've written: One released, one coming out next month, and one currently in playtesting.

Friday sees the return of "Dead in the Water" to the the (virtual) tabletop. I had retired this from convention play, but I thought I'd give it one more turn at the table for this specific con. After all, it's their game that spawned the adventure in the first place!

Saturday I'll be running a few folks through the terrors to be found in "The Desk in Room 8-10." The adventure is written and being laid now, with plans to be officially released on DCC Day on May 16! (And I may just run it again on that day to celebrate!

Sunday will see the premiere first run of my newest adventure "Plague From Below." It's a concept I've had for awhile and am super-stoked to give it its first runthrough with a team of second-level MCC players. It will be a bit "looser" as I'm still working out some of the details of the plot, but it's gonna be fun for all.

Cyclops Con has a few hundred games to choose from, plus several DCC-focused seminars and talks from the creators and authors. Also, each night has a social hangout where you can talk All Things Goodman with other fans. Hope to see you there!

"The World's Gametable": Staying Home Yet Attending Conventions

When the current global pandemic prompted the cancellation of Gary Con this year, I admit I was crushed. It's one of my favorite events to attend, so knowing I was gonna be missing out on several days of back-to-back gaming with my friends was a bitter pill to swallow. However due to some last-minute adjustments and a sweeping push by both GMs and players to migrate online, Gary Con XII lived on as "Virtual Gary Con," complete with hundreds of online events, seminars, and general drunken after-hours get-togethers. By the time the weekend ended, I ran 16 hours of games, watched a seminar or two, and hung out with about 30 other gamers from around the world as we drank and swapped tales from the table.

I attended Gary Con, all without leaving my basement rec room. And it was a blast.

Since then, spring gaming conventions in danger of being cancelled have made a similar adjustment to take place in the electronic aether. KoboldCon now launches May 1 in an online format, and this coming weekend sees the premiere of Cyclops Con, Goodman Games' new online event. Origins Game Faire is one of the recent events that has switched over to an online format (though details are still worked out at this time).

For many of us, we may have the opportunity to attend game conventions across the nation - and even worldwide - that we would otherwise never have a chance to attend. (I already have my eye on running some virtual games for some west coast events.)

Online gaming has always been a thing with many gamers, with services like Roll20, Astral Tabletop, and Fantasy Grounds remaining popular, as well as boardgaming apps like But it seems like the recent circumstantial push toward online gaming have forced grognards (like myself) and others to give it a try. Whether through a gaming-specific service or through other online telecommunication services like Discord, Skype, Zoom, or even chatrooms, it appears that online gaming will be The World's Gametable in the coming months.

So look for this face staring back at you from your screen this summer!

Sunday, March 29, 2020

"Virtual" Gary Con Day 2: Dominated Dust Mites And A Kick In The Shins

And my last day of Virtual Gary Con has come to a close. This last-minute shift to an online event has worked out much, MUCH better than I expected, and I have had an absolute blast. I bought some awesome stuff from dealers, I chatted and drank with other attendees, I ran four games for more than 20 folks across the country....and I never left the chair in my basement. It's been fun, and I think I've overcome my online gaming shyness by leaping into the deep end this weekend. You can be sure I'll be running more (MANY MORE) online RPGs in the near future.

As usual with these little convention-related posts, I'll share what's been going on. Here we go:
  • My (admittedly cheap) earphone/mike started frizzing during my first game, so I had to use the laptop's built in camera and mike. Fortunately they worked well enough to get me through the last two games of the event. Note to self: Spend more than $5 for future headsets.
  • The first game was another return to the world of FORSOOTH! Today we had Jim, Laura, Burl, Jon, and Greg who took on the nefarious Baron Von Bludstayne! Highlights included the ranger splitting an arrow with another arrow then splitting THOSE arrows with another arrow; the bard who somehow charmed a wyvern with his melodious songs; and the fighter whose go-to move was to kick people in the shins. Once again, we laughed ourselves silly as the team rode into the sunset on their new dragon mount (and over the smoldering remains of the tavern they burned down earlier in the game). FORSOOTH! It was an adventure!
  • After a quick lunch of SPAM (my favorite cube-shaped meat-like product), it was onto the final event of Virtual Gary Con! I had another team of post-apocalyptic Seekers venture into the depths of "The Desk in Room 8-10"! After fending off an attack from a crazed former Seeker (driven quite mad from years of isolation), they made short work of the beastly pseudoscorpion guarding the entrance to The Underdrawer. At the end, the team's Manimal dominated a horde of Ravenous Ones, turning them upon each other and escaping the microworld! Thanks to Clayton, Laura, Matt (his first MCC game, in fact!), Dan, and Nathan!
  • And, as I shut down my "basement-run" convention center for the year, I discovered talk of Cyclops Con, a new online convention hosted by Goodman Games! Now that I have the whole online gaming thing down, I think I just may be up for some more virtual shenanigans in the very near future!
  • I admit - I was dubious going into Virtual Gary Con as I've never run a game online before and was unsure how I'd do. But Gary Con is an event I feel very attached to and, wanting to help in any way I could, I made the plunge to support the con. Today, after several days of online fun and friendship, I couldn't be more pleased with event. Thanks goes out to Luke and the team at Gary Con. It's not what you planned for, but it was an amazing event that I'm happy to have participated in!
And here are a few shots I took during the day:

Set up to play FORSOOTH! If we were playing in person, the character sheets are actually goldenrod in color. THE COLOR THAT ALL CHARACTER SHEETS SHOULD BE.

 FORSOOTH! had a team of five eager players who were able to thwart the evil Baron Von Bludstayne...who sadly was NOT the villain who needed thwartin'. However, good triumphed and we all had a good laugh and a good time. Thanks gang!

I was chugging a Maui Burst Mountain Dew during today's game. Pineapple flavor! (Which led to a lengthy discussion of Mt Dew flavors during my first game today. Lotsa Mt Dew fans out there!)

When the Seeker team first encountered The Ravenous Ones in "The Desk in Room 8-10"!

And Cyclops Con lurks on the near horizon!