Monday, November 11, 2019

The Middle Kingdom -- a Metatopia Roundup


We're back from Metatopia. It was freaking awesome. I came, I saw, I tested my game, it actually functioned as a game, and I have a zillion things to re-do, but I feel basically good about it.  I had some wonderful experiences and panels and thoughts about the con itself and the atmosphere which I need to think on some more, but which are broadly good.

Also, I played some amazing stuff, which I will more or less try to describe herein.

First thing, Friday I played a psionic cop game called Psicom, by Jim Dagg, which was awesome both for being pretty much my whole raspberry jam, but because of the other two playtesters, who were these dudes. Seriously, if you can play a game that has action in it with Stras, DO THAT THING. He is a full on Anime hero at the table and it is everything. John is also the nicest dude, though Jim is also the nicest dude, so it was all very happy. Instaback, instabuy.

I didn't do much else on Friday since I was stressing about my Hi-Test, which I also won't go into, as I wanna unpack and do design talk for it on another post. So skipping to Saturday, when I played Immortal Flight by the incomparable Shoshana Kessock. It was really neat; I am allll about playing some Nephilim just living in the world, and it's incredibly evocative. "The Midnight Song". Shivers. and there was a Rabbi at the table too, so we got fully down with it. Mechanics are interesting; I'm really looking forward to this one moving forward.

Another playtest for me, then we played Throne of the Void by the above mentioned Stras and John of Off Guard Games. Harbinger puts it most eloquently here:

This one was especially interesting because we got to play with Rob Donoghue, who is a political cutthroat in intergalactic space politics, but who I mostly chat with as a fellow Scrum Master and Agile development evangelist. Seriously, he did Lean Coffee Friday and Sat morning of the con and it was awesome. Also, it was my first real experience with a Forged In The Dark game by folks who really Feel that system, and I am into it.

Last game Friday was Wracked, by Matthew Malis, another ATL dude who Harbinger knows from LARP-stuff. Really strong concept-- dead folks who have escaped hell and are working for the Reaper in order to secure Redemption. So thematically similar to Immortal Flight in some ways, but not in others. Very strong Vice/Virtue mechanic, which I liked better than the way such is used in Mage, tbh. Dice mechanics were a lot like the ones I'm currently using in At What Cost, which is not a bad thing-- great minds and all! Definitely had fun, and am looking to see where it goes.

Sunday, I had one more test, and then B and I played a game called Vigilance, by AquaVertigo Games. It... was about people who come from the dead in pre-antiquity and function as Living Laws tied to constellations. you can see, I maaaay have played to a theme a bit in my game choices.

Vigilance had a really cool dice pool mechanic, and was again, thematically very strong. The personal story mechanics, once I got them, are very evocative and pull you in well. Yeah, I pretty much hit the jackpot on all the games I played for subject and intensity. While many of them did deal with similar themes, they had interesting and unique things to say about them, and contributed something different in their own way to the craft.

Also psi cops and space politics, which I am forever here for.

And that is Metatopia Roundup #1, and the one I most wanted to get out, because whatever else, the awesome games I played deserve some shoutouts, and the awesome people who ran them as well.

G'night to all of you out there, and here.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Long time passing

So, given that I've completely neglected this thing for a whole year While Things Were Happening... hi!

Metatopia starts this evening and starting tomorrow I'm doing Alpha Tests for a game that I really should be talking about here but I haven't and booooo to me.

The Game, or the hollowed-out shell of a game in it's nascent, trembling, baby-bird form is At What Cost, and it's meant to deconstruct advancement so that all character building/creation is in play, and goes on all the time. The hope is that this bakes all of that stuff into social goals and character development, so that build speculation is a statement about the character in the character's voice, rather than meta-chat. We'll see how that goes.

And I'm really making this post to procrastinate from yet more game prep, so... urm, I should y'know... get on that.

...I should also mention though two things:

first, I was on another Tome Show episode on MEGADUNGEONS last November that I neglected to mention, go clicky link if that sounds fun. I've another one on Secrets in Games that will be up at some point, and let's see if I actually link it in a timely sort of way this time.

Also, Shieldhaven & Sam Dillon are doing a whole series with the Tome called Edition Wars, which is quality content if you're a D&D history nerd, which I am.

Also, for if you like Talisman (the board game), did I ever mention that I was a writer on an RPG version of it? Because if you're interested in the playtest/quickstart of it, that's available.

Oh boy, what else have I been up to... um, Grim War II is on hiatus, but Reign II: Realities had a successful kickstarter that I totally failed to mention here because I'm the worst, except that I am super excited about the arcane and impenetrable setting that Shieldhaven and I wrote for it. I think it's my goal to always be writing the Nobilis 2nd Edition Heartbreaker, that folks will like, stick on some shelf and admire occasionally but be completely baffled about how to actually play., what's that? Am I have rolling anxiety attack right now?

Well yes. Yes I am. So glad you noticed.


Metatopia highlights to come... either tomorrow or sometime next year, maybe.

Friday, September 7, 2018

The One About Cons

This year, Harbinger and I went to GenCon for all 4 days, and Saturday only of Dragon*Con. So I am going to talk a little about those, though it's been... a minute since GenCon, and I have likely forgotten everything, or most things.

The really awesome part was that we got to play- and run- a bunch of games. I definitely want to do more GMming at GenCon, though getting to run around and do whatever is a blast. We played:

  • Most of a session of Grim War II (a sequel to this), run by Greg Stolze, though I had to leave in the middle to run a game, which I'll talk about later.  Note: I am one of the writers on the game! Whee! 
  • A playtest of the Talisman RPG by Pegasus Spiele, run by Ian Lemke. This is mostly notable because Harbinger and I are also writers on this game, and this was the game that we both spent a lot of the con running. I can't talk about this a ton, except that yes, it is a conversion of the board game to an RPG, and it is very much in Alpha-Alpha versions. 
  • 13th Age: Carnival of Masks (I think that was the name), which was fun and awesome, and deeply enjoyable. I forget the GM's name, but she was pretty excellent. I played a Ironforged Cleric who was forged out of a sacred reliquary, and was stolen by the Thief Icon dude, who he felt he owed for teaching him about the rest of the world.
  • Shadow of the Demon Lord, run by James Introcaso, which kind of... happened late, late, late one night in Open Gaming after we'd been hanging with some folks in the Alexandria RPG Game Library- which, by the by, deserves all the donations, as it is awesome. Seriously, they have amazing stuff, and are a fantastic resource. As for the game, it was absolutely balls-out gross and crazy in the best way. It all sort of blurs, except I was playing a changeling and I kind of really enjoyed the single d6 resolution mechanic. 
  • The King in Yellow- Gumshoe-based horror; I kickstarted this one, and was super excited to play it. Not sure what I think about Gumshoe, except that I think it's really hard to write adventures for it which aren't deeply railroady. I was playing an androgynous muse bohemian type, which was like... barely roleplaying. Also, our dice were cold as ice for the main battle part of it. And there were a lot of /awful/ French accents. The GM's was kind of amazing. This was the one game that Harbinger did not join me for, as he was running more playtests. 
  • Illimat - Dealers' room demo! Resulted in us purchasing the game. It is gorgeous.
  • Dragonfire - Another dealers' room demo! We did not get this one, though it was very tempting. Just too much of a time sink.

Now, Panels!

  • Over The Edge, which was kind of a... bizarre cabal meeting where 5 True Believers, Jonathan Tweet and Cam Banks worked to convince one Interested Seeker to Immigrate to Al-Amarja. A note that I backed this kickstarter for embarrassing sums of money.
  • Eberron, which involved Kieth Baker looking for ideas for what else people wanted to see re: Eberron content. 
  • Ars Magica, in which the room scandalized John Nephew by insisting that the actual magic mechanics were more important to them than the Order of Hermes. Which is a vast oversimplification, but the real important part is that now Harbinger has agreed to run Ars Magica for a bunch of us, which is excellent.

I feel like we might have done some other panel, but I don't recall. At some point, everything blurs. Also, I should really get into what we purchased game-wise, but I do want to post this someday. Lots of good stuff. 

As for Dragon*Con... well, that was pretty much a trip to the dealer's room and some room party time, though we did get to play Secret Hitler, which I have mentioned in the vague elsewhere. Actually playing it... well, it does make you confront that most useful competitive RPG mechanics can be pretty easily classed as fascist- a number of the fascist policy abilities are char powers in the Battlestar Galactica board game. Would play again though... it probably deserves it's own post, here or in the ol' Cringing in Terror DeadNazi blog. Now, the list of Cosplays we saw, since that's the most important part of D*Con (nobody but nobody was getting into any panels; they were all crammed): 

* fewer Deadpools and Harley Quinns than years past
* Some excellent T'Challas and Erik Killmongers
* A decent number of Pearls, Steven Universe, and Rose Quartz
* A fairly excellent Slipknot
* Classic Mario characters seemed to be the by quantity winners as far as property goes. 
* Probably the best Billy Dee Williams Two-Face I've ever seen
* A spot-on Mad Eye Moody
* A fantastic Thormund Giantsbane, who was only a bit shorter than the dude what plays him
* At least 3 classic Scarlet Witches. This makes me incredibly happy.
* A dude playing DKR Bane, with two giant mastiffs (they were his service animals). He was standing in front of a real van legit painted as the Mystery Machine from Scooby Doo. There might have been some cognitive dissonance going on here. 
* Some MtF Crossplay, but less than at GenCon. My favorite was a pair of middle aged dudes doing the two creepy twin girls from the Shining. 

Anyway, that's what all stands out in my head at the moment. I'm working on some game systems of my own, also, so y'know, I should actually post about that sometime, when I actually... post. Ever. Yeah. 

Friday, July 20, 2018

Hope and other failings.

I'd hoped I'd have managed some more posts before this Tome Show episode I'm on  dropped, but oh well. It's there! Huzzah!

Let's talk Kickstarters! Right now, I'm backing Reign 2nd ed and Over The Edge 25e, and encourage you to do so also! I'm also doing a bunch of writing for some books right now, or will be doing so soon, but I can't really talk about any of them at the moment, so... well, hopefully I will remember to post here when I can do so.

Well, we can hope.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Oh hey, thing!

So yeah, I'm on The Tome Show tonight, discussing Midgard Heroes as I oh-so-smoothly insinuated in my terribly conveniently timed latest roundup post. So if you're here from that, s'up?

Otherwise, I should mention that we had session #83 of Harbinger's game on Sunday, which was really excellent for me, as my Fighter, Lanth accomplished yet another major goal, and got to do some serious and convincing weight-slinging as far as convincing other people to do the needful and not be assholes (NPCs, not the party). Also, the party actually agreed on a plan for actually actives next steps against the main (so far) campaign level threat. This highlights something the game does that I really super love, which is Birthright style Magic-is-tied-to-the-land. Lemme 'splain.

There's these gigantic (typically) stone creatures called Domain Sentinels, who were created in ancient days to protect certain magically designated areas of land, or, well, domains. My character's race, the Veytikka, seem to have some kind of connection also to the domains, or at least to providing legitimacy somehow to people who want to rule it- but that's my impression from some things that've happened in game. Not least of which involves the first time we met a Domain Sentinel, on the first floor of a dungeon which is basically a nod to Od Nua from Pillars of Eternity. This one was a 10 foot tall stone quadruped which trapped each of us in this ray of blue light and asked us creepy, enigmatic questions. And the one Lanth got was, "Is there a threat to the domain?"

I said no at the time, but as shit got ever closer to the overhead rotary device, my opinion has shifted, and now we're basically collecting Sentinels to turn against the evil angel that is busily seeking to sow chaos and destruction in all the living world. So that's fun.

But really, I love this kind of mecha-monster ally deal, and it potentially lends itself to some fun, non-horrible, more allied Shadow of the Colossus type play, in the long run. Anyway, the session was much more heavy on the social side than the combat side this time, which is often pretty awesome when it's well seeded and has a strong foundation (this did, it was a number of pay-offs from really old previous encounters), and the combat, when it came, was done in such a way that we only barely survived it, only barely defeated the horrible curfew-enforcing armored air elemental thing that was beating the snot out of us, and then only barely avoided getting the tracking curse it'd placed on us cured before the local military police found us and made our lives that much more short. All in all, a good time.

And looking back over that, I should really get into more details about the pretty awesome and terrible situation we're in, but it's late, and I need to cut like, 50 words or so from my 200 word RPG that I will maybe actually remember to send in this year.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

Over a year and roundup time.

...Wow, I suck so much. I promise you that the lack of posts in the past... years has been from lack of time, and in no-wise lack of topics. So let's walk through some Roundup stuff, shall we?


I'm running Liel, my D&D game, and... that's about it. I'm enjoying the hell out of it though. I like running games... maybe more than playing them. I want to talk more about this soonest, especially because we just went through about 3 sessions of the players dying, being dead, and then making themselves not dead again, which meant it was a fairly good test case for ideas I put forth in that article I guest wrote for Tribality that one time. I think it went pretty well, and it was also a nice example of a theme that bears repeating: When the players pick up all the hints and figure out what's going on, they should probably just win.

...because, y'know, I need more blog topics. Right.


Aurikesh - Harbinger's D&D 5e game. Continues to be great. I'm mostly focusing on my Blademaster 2 weapon fighter, who is level 7 now and feels like an unstoppable badass. I need to get my Tomelock and my Royal Sorcerer caught up more. That said, my main is well in the middle of accomplishing one of her major character goals, so I've got that going for me. 

Granite Sledge - Standsinfire's 5e game. Planescape on a boat! A big, rocky boat. I am playing a Lamia Monk, which is really interesting... StandsInFire created cool rules for her; I'm blood of Abraxas. The game itself is gonzo in a good way... thing

Forgotten Realms - Harbinger is also running a 5e Realms game with me and a couple of friends. I am playing a gnomish Mystic Theurge who worships the god of runes... really, I just wanted to play a Theurge. So far, I like it pretty well... it sure is a wizard who gets to use cleric spells. Not super special, except thematically. 

Over The Edge 25a - Harbinger has run a couple sessions of this, and basically, I always want more. I've said this before, but MAN do I love the playtest dice rules so far- I feel like I could run almost anything with them, particularly if I want something very light, that is heavy on the RP.

Cuphead - does anyone really play this game, or does this game play them?

Love Nikki- Yeah, I said it. But seriously, it hits all my weak points- collection, completionism, aesthetics, and exploration. It's a time and money trap like no other. If you value your cash and sanity, AVOID (but seriously, my friend code is 106448785).

Flight Rising- Yup, still. Not a ton to say about the dressup dragons except it seems the community has mellowed some, and it's gone to always-open registration, so check it out if you are so inclined! For reals though, it's a really good introduction to the culture of subgaming and in-game IRL economics beyond gold sellers (just... search on 'adoptable' sometime), and how pet games are fascinating for the econ lessons.

Pokémon Go - What? Don't you judge me, you know you're playing it too. And no, I don't have Mew yet. I'm about halfway there, still stuck looking for friggin ghost pokémon.


I wrote a Campaign Starter Kit for Unknown Armies 3 which is out to the backers now! Likely it will drop on DriveThruRPG soonish, and when that happens, I should definitely post it here, and not, y'know... forget.

For myself, I'm working on a Very Deconstructed Game called (tenatively) At What Cost, and if I actually manage to not get swamped by Day Job, I will post design diaries here, or sommat. I am hoping to have a playtestable version of it by Metatopia, assuming we're able to actually go to Metatopia this year. We'll see.

Also, I should make sure I'm not under NDA before I talk about anything else I'm writing for anyone, but Harbinger and I will be at GenCon, so there's that.


Midgard Heroes - by Kobold Press. More on this later as well, but the short version, there's a lot here I want to pick apart and feed on to grant my games strength, much like the necrophage described in its pages. Find it here

In the Company of Unicorns - by Rite Publishing, specifically, converted for 5e by my own dearest Harbinger. So, in the dim and tawdry days of 4e, I was working on a set of equine racial options called Pwny Island, which apparently, I actually thought was funny at the time. I never finished it, like so many things, but look! B basically has- well, at least, the unicorns- and managed to make them interesting, serious but not over-earnest, and fairly compelling. I'm actually unironically interested in playing a unicorn character after reading this book. I really want to do some sessions with it and post roundup reviews, because Yeah I do! So really, go! OBTAIN IT.

From Kickstarter, we got our copies of Epyllion, Changeling 20th, and I'll be picking up Dawning Star at GenCon this year, and I'm further waiting on too long a list to mention, so I'll make the attempt to talk about those games as I receive them. 

And that's the news. Why am I actually posting things now? 

...well, why indeed. 

Because I missed you, probably.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Dungeons and Dungeons (potentially, part the first)

Since Shieldhaven brought it up in the comments on this post, I should talk a little about what I do when it comes to dungeon-running.

I grew up playing my dad's AD&D games, which were always dungeons. I think I've only run one game that was not a dungeon, and that one was a one shot for a single player. Contrariwise, except for my dad's game, I don't think I've played another D&D game that has been primarily dungeon based. So I guess it is still a little odd that for me, when I am running a game, dungeon exploration is pretty much everything. Which isn't to say that the world above doesn't matter-- it certainly does. Just that the players won't typically be interacting with it directly; at least, not for some time.

The part that can be chalked up to laziness is where I like the constraints that dungeons put on the party's immediate actions, at game start. There's this map, see? There's only so many directions they can go. I don't suddenly have to gen up a bunch of stuff I'm not prepared for (unless I haven't read my notes in a while, which has certainly happened), or come up with a more artificial way to use something I'd planned. What's there is there.

That said, no one really wants to go through another boring hall after boring hall, fighting incongruous monsters and improbable traps that don't seem to have any reason to be there. Also, there's the problem where you find a bunch of loot that is difficult to impossible to spend, because there's not a ton of good shopping in the underground. Usually. So here's a list of things I think about when I'm preparing a dungeoncrawl campaign.