Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Crunch Time

I have a week and a half until my Gnome Wars game at Historicon, and the pressure has substanially built.

Despite some assurances of resources from Mr. Stanton, I have a boatload (or a troop transport) of materials to work on:

Two units of Swiss need to be finished, and another needs some significant maintenance. My 14th Training Company needs some significant tlc after Cold Wars and Longido Mountain.

The refinery needs to another heavy coat, some stenciling, and whatever details I feel like I have time for. Plus, I've finally gotten the labels off the small bottles that inspired me to design the scenarion to begin with.

The sacred shrine needs to be painted. I'm hoping the gift card for Home Depot that work bestowed upon me finally shows up today. The supplies for that are a bit more expensive than I had anticipated.

On a positive note, I printed out 90% of the troop orders, backgrounds, etc at work this week. Even though the game is only slated for six players, if my open invitation for Swiss units brings more players, I have orders for up to 15!

On another postive note, I finally found our camera, after a two week search. Right where I left it last, stuck between the couch cushions.

Now I'm just wondering if I tell the wife that I'm off Tuesday, or spend the whole morning painting and packing.

Monday, June 27, 2011

New Jurassic Reich for Historicon!

It's the most wonderful time of the years, if you're awaiting new stuff at Historicon.

More TMP announcements:

Eureka boldly shows their addition to the Jurassic Reich line: The Flakosaurus!

I'm not quite sure how that works in regards to physics, but it's models like that that make me inch closer and closer to the Pulp-Weird War II-Atomic Horror genres.

I wonder how many gnomes can fit up there?

ATKM Not at Historicon, but there's a sale!

My Saturday daytrip of GMing and window shopping at Historicon got a little bit shorter.

For whatever reason, All the King's Men (ATKM) will NOT be at Historicon this year. Let's just hope it's not family-related, or entirely focused on the financial inquities which is a convention at the VFCC.

Ken is usually one of my guaranteed stops at a con. I'm not dropping hundreds, but the dealers always like those guys who show up each con, buy a couple things, shoot the breeze, and most importantly, aren't THAT annoying. (Oh God, I hope he doesn't consider me one of the annoying ones....) He will be missed next weekend.

That being said, he is running a "No Historicon" sale!

Per TMP:

"Just mention Historicon or accuse us, "Hey, aren't you having a sale?" and you're eligible for a free skirmisher set of figures (six figures plus two command) after a $50 USD order


A free infantry set (twelve plus two) after a $100 USD order
Order minimums do not include the normal cost of the free set, or shipping.

Still not going to have the fundage to do a serious order, but it doesn't hurt to spread the good word. And remember, ATKM does AWI, 1812 and some nice Napoleonic stuff now.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Historicon has a mascot?

John Kovalic, the creator of Dork Tower, artist for Munchkin, and all-around awesome dude, has produced a mascot for Historicon:

Meet Terry, as in "His-Terry-Con".

It's nice to know another guy who everyone associates with comics, rpgs, and Pokethulhu is secretly a closet wargamer. It's even more awesome that he did this free of charge.

Check out more of his ramblings here

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The Apathy of New Releases (July 2011)

It's that time of year. Issue number #137 of GTM should cover all the items slated for Origins release, but were omitted from previous issues, and of course GEN CON PRODUCT! With that I can't be completely apathetic....

But there still isn't one damn thing in the book that I want!

Perhaps the Eureka Biplane Teddy Bears will offset that, but let's get started:

Want List: None
Dream List: EVERYTHING I NEED TO KNOW I LEARNED FROM DUNGEONS & DRAGONS Paperback from WotC $12.95 - It's one of those books they put right next to the register and people buy, just because. If I were a store, I'd snag up 2 or 3 copies, make sure it was as edition-generic as it could be, and if it was, I'd order 10+ more

The Store List
I've been following the Catayst Game Lab Facebook feed, so I know Origins and GenCon will be big. For August/September
BATTLETECH: A TIME OF WAR COMPANION (The RPG?)............................$44.99
BATTLETECH: A TIME OF WAR GM SCREEN .......................$19.99
BATTLETECH: JIHAD FINAL RECKONING ............................$29.99
BATTLETECH: RECORD SHEETS PROTOTYPES ............................$9.99
LEVIATHANS BRITISH FLEET BOX ............................$39.95
LEVIATHANS CORE BOX SET ...........................$79.95
LEVIATHANS DICE PACK ..........................$19.95

They haven't gone into detail what Leviathans is (I was incorrectly hoping Renegade Legion), but they are stoked about the figures.

A plethora of Heavy Gear product is also solicited to continue with the relaunch of the line. Price does hit me. Outside of a decal pack and some assorted weapons sprues, everything else is $40. To invest into a niche game in the giant robot combat genre? Questionable at best.

Fantasy Flight is releasing another board game, The Adventurers: The Pyramid of Horus. It looks like some good old fashioned mummy-punching archeology. 50 bucks for a board game seems standard. Also of note from FFG, The Black Crusade GM Kit, a sourcebook for Deathwatch, and Black Fire Pass for WHFRP (Dwarves!)

Four more Dust Tactics releases. Mind you, they are $15.00 boxed sets, but if I had by this point, if the game hadn't taken off in the stores, I would be looking at clearance, rather than shelf stocking. Of course, if I can find those walkers I mentioned in an earlier post on the cheap, that would be sweet.

Green Ronin: Mutants & Masterminds 3rd Edition: Emerald City Campaign Setting

Heads on Pikes - the collectible miniatures game. Seriously?

Mayfair: Lots of ads for Settlers accesories, but a solicited game that caught my eye was :TEST OF FIRE: FIRST BULL RUN 1861

Paizo: First off 3 more third party products. Paizo itself has 6 new items, including a Pathfinder Beginner's boxed set (only $34.99!). Any sort of boxed set used to make me drool with desire. Now, I'm hoping it brings in the younger whippersnappers.


Wizkids: Heroclix: Superman expansion. Just in time for the universe reboot in September! I wonder if they're throwing in the new costume?

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Eureka New Releases at Historicon

Dammit, why do I do any sort of planning of my purchases at Historicon. Even with an insignificant budget for this year's con, Eureka has decided that I should not eat on Saturday, and I'll be taking backroads instead of the turnpike.

Per their announcement on TMP.

"Our 28mm Teddy Bear range will now include Bearon von Richoften and Teddy Rickenbacker in our WWI Bearoplae range. These famous flyers come with either a biplane or triplane, and decals for German, U.S.A. or RFC."

Besides being above and beyond the normal level of cuteness I expect from Eureka's Teddy Bear line, I want prices... stat. Hell, I want bulk prices. Mount these bad boys on solid flight stands and I can pictures dogfights overhead and the gnomes slug it out on the ground. Anyone ready to slap some rules together for these bad boys?

The also announced the first previews of their samurai rabbits.

They look pretty good, but after seing the guinea pig samurai awhile back, these just don't make the cut. Maybe if the rules were pretty cool.

Monday, June 20, 2011

(Gnome Wars) Tanga #3 - Battle in the Mists

Again, special campaign rules can be found here.

November 3, 1914, 0830 hours - The northern-central slope of Mt. Longido

This would be a great moment in Swiss history! Lt. Colonel Dykstra had previously send two minor attacks to distract the Germans. Now it was time to assault the main fortifications on the mountain and begin the conquest of the German colony!

Apparently, Lt. Colonel Dykstra was stark raving mad. Despite a weakened German deployment, the units he brough were undertrained, tired, and wandering around lost in the brush for the last two and a half hours. Dykstra's moment of truth was late. The Germans noticed their movement in the brush, just below them and began the engagement.

Swiss Order of Battle: Nichols and Phil Carson
Objective: Seize as many German fortifications as possible.

1 unit of Red HatSwiss
1 unit of Swiss Engineers
1 unit of Swiss Rangers
1 unit of Sikhs (poorly trained)

Swiss Variable Attachments (d20)
1-7: Irish Unit
8-11: 5 figures from one unit may deploy two feet ahed of the main group.
12-14: Extra Leader and St. Bernard Medic
15-18: Sikh Light Machine Gun (using figures from existing unit)
19-20: Field Artillery - 3 shots called in at beginning of the games. Fire (with 5" diameter blast) arrives in d6+3 turns. Roll to hit as per indirect fire.

German Order of Battle: Jessica Carson, Scott Birkner, and myself for comic relief
Objective: Prevent the Swiss objective

1 unit of Green Germans
1 unit of Grey Germans
1 unit of Purple Germans
1 Light Machine Gun Team

German Variable Attachments (d20)
1-3 Light Machine Gun
4-9 Heroic Teddy Bear Askaris
10-17 Light Mortar Crew
18-20 6 additional inches of trench

SPECIAL RULE: The rock walls on various levels were impassable areas of terrain. They did NOT block line of sight for any unit. Troops could occupy the area below them represented by the loose stones and be considered in heavy cover. However, the units firing out of that area did so at a -2 penalty.

Deployment: This was Jessica's first wargame ever, so I gave the her two instructions and full deployment responsibility: Don't mix the different color figures and don't install the machine gun in the tower on the board. For the Swiss, perhaps the machine gun firing on the Swiss right flank made all the units start on their left side. Unfortunately, the Green German unit that defended that side was rifle-heavy and ready to take on anything.

Turns 1-3: The Swiss bumbled out of the brush and tried to shoot and fire up the hill. The five Rangers who were deployed ahead of their unit were Limburger Grenadiers, tossing chees into the trenches and disrupting the firing line of the Greens. The Engineers decided on taking the tower. The tower was manned by two rifles, a grenadier, and a bier nurse all grateful for the German machine gun tenderizing the advancing Swiss.

The Swiss begin their assault. The machine gun is on the far left

The Sikhs began a slow approach, using every inch of the terrain to avoid the German machine gun. This was slowed even more with a wild group of Teddy Bear Askaris charging down the mountain to meet them.

The Engineers charge the tower

Swiss Cheese Throwers scatter the trench line.

Turns 4-6: The Swiss Rangers ranks began to be whittled away by the Green German rifles. The ranger leaders dove into the rocky area for cover. The Red Hat Swiss were just too slow. The Engineers wiped out what little resistance was around the tower, and began to scale the tower. The constant fire of the machine gun, and the sheer will of the tower guards made things difficult. The turning point of the tower assault was the machine gun rolling a "1" on its ammo check, forcing a team member to run back for another crate. Those three rounds with a silent gun would be all the difference.

The Teddy Bear Askaris swung down the side of battlefield, fired one ineffectual volley and were cut down to the man by the Sikhs. Unfortunately, the Sikhs were on ground level of the battlefield, with no chance of making it up the hill.

The Green Germans are scattered, but not yet broken

Turns 7-10: With everything looking lost for the Swiss, and with much prodding by a certain game referee, the Ranger leader jumped out of cover and into the trenches. The Rangers were killed to the man, but their heroic charge knocked the Germans out of the trenches, and the Red Hats swung in to pick off a number of the retreating troops.

The Swiss NCOs seize the tower

The Engineers suffered tremedous casulaties Their officer fell off the tower TWICE in melee, got up, but finally stayed down the third time. The dual NCOs of the Engineers (flagmen, so to speak), showed no mercy in dispatching the Grenadier and the Nurse, then hit the deck to avoid the machine gun.

The Sikhs? Just got up to the first level of elevation when we called the game.

The Swiss were at a tremendous disadvantage from the get-go. First, our gracious hosts, the Carsons could only furnish a 5x6 table, rather than the 5x8 in the book. That is a lot less space for the Germans to defend. Second, I did sort of throw Phil at the wolves the first two turns. He's one of my old LOS buddies, so I figured he would scan the battlefield and either find cover or get to that trenchline ASAP. We had a great tactic with piles of cheese littering the battlefield. Finally, they did get the worst roll on the variable troop table. The only other option I could think of was a bicycle tank, but that would completely overpower the Swiss. Perhaps a wizard will finally make an appearance. An African Prince perhaps?

This isn't to say the Germans had it easy. I had forgotten an entire box of figures, so the Grey and Purple Germans were close to 60% strength. Good (or lucky) deployment, followed by excellent crossfires kept the the German center from falling. A bier nurse who doesn't failing healing rolls helps too.

For the scenario, I gave more points for the objective. The first two fortifications in a side's control at the end of the game were worth 5 points each, the third and fourth were worth 10 apiece. With two trenches still in German control, the Swiss controlling the tower, and one trench hotly contested, the final score was Germans 39, Swiss 30. The Swiss did get considerable bonus points for the slaughter of those Teddy Bear natives...Historically, British fire fell two of the German commanders. The askaris held their ground until another officer could mount a counter attack to push the British back. With the British falling back, Major Kraut consolidated his reserves and order a full counter attack.

But there's one more scenario before that big final battle on Longido Mountain. Hopefully we'll get to that just after Historicon.

Current score of the campaign: Germans 99, Swiss 84, but the Swiss still have some tricks up their sleeve.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Hackmaster Hacklopedia of Beasts and Origins Promotion

I have to admit that I don't check out the Kenzerco boards as often as I once did. KODT is a quarterly treat for me at best, and Hackmaster is but a good part of the engine of a number of vehicles in the planning stages. Of course, I might be able to throw another con game together and get away with it.

I still get the email updates from Kenzerco's online store. It's basically the standard "come to Origins, we have new stuff (Bundles of Troubles and Modules), but then this followed:

Then come to the Knights of the Dinner Table Live Reading/Meet n Greet event (Friday night, starting at 6 pm) for your chance at winning the FIRST Hacklopedia of Beasts hardcover printed!

That's right -- we're giving away one of the advance copies we received from the printer to celebrate the moment (and the end of the long journey). Stop by our booth (#123) for more details or to pre-order a copy.

Oooh, me likey!

Now I understand why they solicited the book for $49.95. If only individuals could raise the debt ceiling as easy as the federal goverment.

Here's the interior...

I mean, I have all the Hacklopedias that I need. I'm not playing the new Basic/Advanced Hackmaster 5th Edition, but that book deserves a spot on my shelf of quality.

Right after I pick up the 30th Anniversary CoC, a pile of other Cthulhu books, and enough lead to poison a smal town.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

NYC CoC #9.5: If I Can Make it There...

After the debacle at Harvey's Lake, two of our investigators were looking for a change. Dr. Nathaniel Millheim had lost more sanity and blood the past two years than he had all the other previous years being a part-time charlatan and part-time parapsychologist. A rest was needed.

Steven O'Hara was tired of his superiors berating him at Wyoming Seminary, the restrictive teaching schedule, and of course, his wife Angela complaining about money. A new job was in order.

Only crooked bookkeeper Brian Nichols didn't have a big reason to leave Wilkes-Barre, except for those two fictional murder raps which might come back to haunt him.

Dr. Millheim had been dabbling in fictionalizing the adventures, stories, and wacky encounters he had experienced over the years. With numerous magazines popping up in everyday, he decided to take what little funds he had left and move to New York City.

He announced his intentions to move to New York in June at a Memorial Day celebration, much to the surprise of the O'Haras and Nichols. For Nichols, it was an instant decision to follow the good Doctor, whether he wanted it or not. He had picked up some extra cash through the Spring with some illicit bookkeeper endeavors, so he had some funds to allow him to make safe entries into the much more "competitive" money laundering market in New York.

For Steven, panic struck. Although he had seen less of his friend this year. Nathaniel was his only connection to this podunk town. His job was getting less and less bearable. With one mention of New York, his wife Angela went completely gaga over the concept of living in Manhattan. Steven decided to head his wife off at the pass and actually inquire about work on the island. Unfortunately, all teaching jobs at private schools for the following semester were filled by June and any government connections he had back at the war had been labelled socialist... or worse.

By August Dr. Millheim had achieved unparallelled success for an amatuer writer. His first story "Hoyce Roberts versus the Beastmen of Appalachia" was picked up by the first magazine he submitted it to, met with incredible acclaim, for a pulp, and by August he already had two more stories ready for publication and a small advance on a book or full collection of short stories.

This success netted a few other perks. His position as the new hot pulp writer garnered him a few guest invites to the Belvidere Supper Club. The Belvidere was an eclectic group of writers, researchers, "adventurers", and other oddities who met to discuss far-fletched theories, upcoming projects, and of course, violate the Volstead Act. Dr. Millheim (and his "agent" Brian Nichols) were the toast of the club.

When Steven came along in August to visit, he became his "plus-one" to the Club for a night. He became surrounded by a number of members during a discussion of "dimensional travel." After escaping he was confronted by Dr. Rudolph Pearson. Dr. Pearson was a professor of Medieval Literature at Columbia and he asked the investigators to search for Dr. Ephraim Harris (see CoC #8 - Transgression). Realizing the Steven was actually a physicist, and he offered him an interview.

A literature professor offering a position in the Physics department? Not quite. The department had considerable trouble finding a suitable replacement for the talented Harris. Pearson had begun having lunch with the department head after Harris had been declared truant of his duties, and a friendship developed. Pearson could bend the department head's ear and at least grant an interview on positive footing. Of course Steven jumped at the opportunity and was granted adjunct faculty status at the university. An Ivy League school. Without a Doctorate. Professor Pearson was a good contact to have.

So now the investigators are residents of the Big Apple. Through the early Fall, Dr. Millheim has developed a surprising fanbase for his "Hoyce Roberts" stories, which now total six. His new paranormal book is scheduled for release around Halloween, and even his old publisher of his crackpot books of yore, is looking at reprinting. Someone is definitely need to act as his manager, as his former lawyer Selwyn Robards, was deceased (see CoC #9 "Dust to Dust"). Perhaps, if he's not completely off his rocker, that Nichols chap that kept following him around might formally become his agent. A crooked bookkeeper almost equals a normal lawyer.

"Professor" O'Hara was enjoying the collegiate lifestyle a bit more than prep school. The Manhattan lifestyle cancelled out the increase in salary, so there were still arguments with Angela. However, as low man on the department totem pole, he was forced to wear a monkey suit and attend university functions deemed too insignicant for the other faculty (which was often). Angela loved dressing up and attending the galas, and may have picked up a contact or two within New York City (semi) society, or at least some Columbia alums.

Brian Nichols still wanted to read the damn books that Dr. Millheim accumulated, but he contented himself with Dr. Millheim's previous works, and the outrageous stories from the Belvidere. Dr. Millheim had developed a few friendships with the new acquaintances, such as Jackson Elias, a hard-living, world reknowned expert on death cults, Charles Tatum, amatuer marine biologist convinced on the superior intelligences of fish, and Paul LeMond, acclaimed spiritual medium, or at least that's what his manager Herb says.

In fact, Paul had invited the entire Millheim brigade (Nathaniel, Brian, Steven, and Angela) to a weekend of seances and spirit contact in Upstate New York. Despite being all-expenses paid, Dr. Millheim had meetings with a different publisher, and the O'Haras had university obligations. To be fair to Paul, Dr. Millheim requested that Nichols attend the weekend and "report back his findings." Some of the people at the club were quacks, so it was nice to know who was legit before they started asking for membership dues, rather than complimentary visits. The book trade seemed like a good occupation, particularly after the last few years, but as "Fighting Jack" Mosher, the mentor to Hoyce Roberts, had said in his last story, "You can't retire from saving the world. The world won't let ya!"

Next up for CoC: #10 - "Suffer Little Children"

Thursday, June 16, 2011

NEPA CoC #9: Dust to Dust...on Harvey's Lake

Late April 1923 -

After a rough start to the year, our intrepid investigators settled back into their more mundane roles. Steven O'Hara concentrated on his teaching, and ignoring his nagging wife's requests. Dr. Millheim had little for work for Brian, so Mr. Nichols gently eased his way back into being a crooked bookkeeper. There were those two murder raps he needed to avoid, so things needed to be done... delicately. And Dr. Millheim, he spent most of his days writing, although no one knew what the topic of his next book would be. With Smitty back up with his new business partner in Boston, the old comraderie just wasn't there. Life was painstakingly normal for once.

That all changed with one story in the paper. It appeared that body of Selwyn Robards had been dug up and taken from the cemetery. Selwyn had been the long-time legal counsel for Dr. Millheim, dealing primarily in his tresspassing and breach of contract allegations. He had just recently passed away, a few months after the investigators helped solve the murder of his nephew Jeremy Lombard (see CoC #3 post).

Graverobbing was not an area of expertise to Dr. Millheim. Hell, it was a bad time for the group. Steven had an only an extended weekend to help out, and Nichols was unavailable, swamped with unethical activities. But Selwyn was the one friend Dr. Millheim could count on when he was starting out (for a modest fee, of course), and the article mentioned other sites getting robbed west of the Susquehanna.

Dr. Millheim briefed Steven, and they hit the trails of the unspeakable acts.


The towns of Kingston, West Wyoming, Shavertown, Dallas, and Ruggles where the graverobberies were located, were within a few miles of one another, but each one had different police jurisdiction. Those jurisdictions were not cooperating with anyone, even the State Police (LOTS of failed rolls on the parts of the players, even Idea and Luck rolls failed miserably.) The only consistancies that could be assertained were that all the sites were dug up by hand (no walking dead clawing their way out) and two sites reported a beat up pick-up truck at the scene.

On Tuesday, low on clues, the duo even tried to connect the graverobberies on a map to find a supernatural pattern or desidng, no luck.

On Wednesday, Steven returned to his job, but stayed in contact with Dr. Millheim in case any research in town was needed. That morning's paper reported another graverobbery, this time further north in the resort town of Harvey's Lake. Dr. Millheim hopped the next train up to the lake and interviewed Michael Felder, the town pharmacist and former husband of the deceased, as well as Constable Owen Tabler. Felder wished him well, but was indifferent to the heinous crime, which might have been caused by the copious ammounts of alcohol coming off his breath.

The Constable was as helpful as he could be detailing Mrs. Felder's accidental demise by drowning, Mr. Felder's history, and also clarifying newspaper reports of "The Harvey's Lake Prowler." It seemed like a deranged vagrant missing his right hand had called the lake home over the last two months and occasionally harrassed boaters, children, and other locals. He doubted the two were connected, but two problems like this before the tourists come back would be bad for business.

On Thursday, Dr. Millheim hopped a train for Binghamton to meet with Dr. Hamilton Fabry, the father of Mrs. Felder. Mr Fabry was very curt with him, repeating the offer of a $1000 reward and not being forthcoming at all with any additional information. The offer was withdrawn after Dr. Millheim was caught tailing him for any clues.

Late Thursday night, Dr. Millheim received a strange, garbled call from someone claiming to be Selwyn Robards. They sounded confused and claimed he was in a house by a lake. The line then went dead.

Friday evening, Millheim and O'Hara were back up in Harvey's Lake. The previous day the Harvey's Lake Prowler had killed a five year old girl. Constable Tabler was still wary to request help from the State Police without any leads. The townsfolk were wary of outsiders. It was a bad weekend for the pair.

Early Sunday afternoon, Steven gave up on the endeavour, packing up and leaving on the noon train. Dr. Millheim walked the banks of the lake, desperate for any leads, when he heard a shrill scream. He saw a little girl being chased by a lumbering form of a man. He quickly snapped two photographs, but moral decency caught the best of him and he ran down to distract the man and save the girl. The man was horribly disfigured, unable to communicate, and missing his right hand! Despite having twice as many hands, Dr. Millheim was quickly overcome by this savage brute, and if not for a lucky shot with a nearby 2x4, we may have been talking of funeral arrangements for the Dr. and a new character for Nate.

Dr. Millheim scrambled as fast as he could back to the hotel, and in a moment of panic, patched himself up and headed out on the final train of the day at 3pm to Wilkes-Barre.

The papers next week were all aflutter with the chaos at Harvey's Lake. While Dr. Millheim had been boarding the train, some townsfolk had surrounded the Prowler and killed him outright. When others went to visit the pharmacist at his home for medicine for the injuries to the young girl, they discovered the body of Michael Felder in the basement. It had been ripped to shreds as if animals had attacked it. The open door for the furnace revealed human bones...

Keeper Notes: I'll never say the main group of investigator PCs is the most competent I've even GM'ed, but this was the first time the group suffered abject failure on such a level (Outside of nearly getting sacrificed by Klan cultists, the backup characters saved the day). Neither social nor research skill rolls were getting anything close to a success. With the chief lockpicker of the group (Steven) not convinced the drunk pharmacist was hiding something, and that he insisted going back to his teaching job, a normally bumbling parapsychologist was nearly exposed for the man he actually was.

After this session, I agreed to let Dr. Millheim persue other goals, mainly, becoming a pulp horror writer, embellishing on his previous adventures.

This will be the last blog entry for NEPA CoC in the title. I will make a post covering the transition from Wilkes-Barre to the Big Apple (#9.5). I will also keep the numbering as it is, so last week's session, if I ever write it up, will be #10. I'm going to continue with the "NEPA Coal Country Campaign" tag for now to keep continuity. It will stay there until we have TPK. In the event they get around to a campaign, I'll just add it (i.e. Spawn of Azathoth Campaign) in addition to the tradtional tags.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

San Check..or How I Learned to Love Cthulhu

For the better part of 20 years, I've been a fantasy gamer, a fantasy GM specifically. I've dabbled in Sci-Fi, Modern, and other genres along the way, but the focus has always been low-magic low-level fantasy. I have fond memories of my first foray behind the shield, sending the drunken warrior, stupid ranger, busy mage, and Charles' half-elf backstabbing with a bardiche through the Temple of Elemental Evil. Despite my desire to run Recon, Rifts, of dozen or so other games for mini-campaign, the player pool for fantasy was always ready and able to play.

Call of Cthulhu could finally supplant fantasy as my go-to game.

After reading post after post on (the go-to CoC site) of people wishing to become new Keepers,and the difficult transition they are having, it's certain that CoC is a different animal than traditional (re: fantasy) role-playing.
Horror, even hiding in the distant shadows, usually conflicts with the average gamer's desire for role-playing. They want larger than life, might is right games of actions. Everyday people finding out the thought-bending secrets of the universe with investigation and role-playing? No so much

There are people who have written about the differences between fantasy and horror (D&D vs CoC, specifically), so I won't go that route. I will cover the major differences for me as a Keeper, however:

1 Game Prep: Fantasy (outside of 3.x/4th edition) is way easier. Perhaps I've run too many modules or memorized the books, but I could run a passable fantasy game on the fly. CoC has me reading over sections, outlining story progression, and ensuring proper PC/NPC interaction. The graph paper focus of the fantasy (Area 5, Room 12 B - 3 goblins looking to exact a toll for access into 12-c) versus story driven focus of Cthulhu drives me to perfection.

2 The personal touch. This may be true for most modern games, but Cthulhu characters are more fleshed out at the start than most 8th level fighters. Granted, in our game, the investigators are 1920's versions of themselves, but the players have even shown strong attatchment to the replacement characters.

3 Material: I've noticed an online argument over which edition brings more back for the buck. It's immaterial to me, since CoC books present weeks, if not months of play time in a campaign book. Let's see: Spawn of Azathoth - 6 sections, Escape from Innsmouth - 8 sections, Day of the Beast - 12 sections. And we're not talking about dungeon levels, or steps of a quest. We're talking about open-ended city scenarios that ENCOURAGE independent action. Hell, Masks is broken down into six sections, yet I never see anyone finishing the campaign in six sessions. There's just that much stuff. In addition to that, I'm much more possessive of my CoC books, than the Hackmaster books I've devoured and used for years. The times, they just might be a-changin in regards to preferences.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Gaming with the Viscount X

I like to place our rare game days on Facebook events, just in case we can get an extra player, or on the off chance that someone new expresses interest. I've been labelling these session "Gaming with the Viscount," and they've varied from fairly big affairs, to just Nichols and me playing some card game.

Gaming with the Viscount X occurred in East Stroudsburg on Sunday afternoon. It was nice to see the Carsons again, as well as a surprised visit from Scott, who just magically showed up. Thank God we had no-shows, as I would be short material otherwise.

We managed to run the third game for the Tanga Campaign for Gnome Wars, and then a very good Call of Cthulhu game, with nearly all new characters for the same campaign.

I'll have write-ups for both sessions hopefully soon... and the previous CoC write-up completed.

A couple observations from Sunday: Either the Tanga tables need to be 5x8, or troop selection needs to be curbed on a smaller table. And the new CoC Keeper Screen passed it's first test. I do need a sticky with (IDEA, KNOW, LUCK) on it to aid with game speed, but the skill chart was useful, and Resistance Table rolls I need were literally off the charts.

And having my daughter steal my dice, put them in her purse, and have Daddy take the purse to gaming to avoid delaying things will make one lose street cred.

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Historicon Mailer Received

Mail this week had been dreadfully unexciting until I got my CoC Keeper's Screen yesterday. Today, they imporved a bit more, as the offical Historicon 2011 mailer hit my mail box. Twelve pages of info about the convention, to entice more people to make the trek down to Valley Forge.

Years ago in the local con scene, the two things that would make or break a con were (a) store advertising and (b) a great pre-reg book, with a good bulk of them mailed out. A prospective attendee wanted to know what was being run, what was being run, and, oh yeah, the events. The right mix, and you could get people from all over to descend upon a Legion hall, a rundown motel, heck even a Farm Show building.

Somewhere with the advancements with email and the internet, that physical touch disappeared, and while websites and online registration makes national cons like Origins and GenCon bearable, the local cons relying on Facebook get about 60% of the numbers they should be getting.

Historicon is somewhere in the middle between the big cons and the local shows. Pre-registration, GM event registration, even HMGS membership can be done online, and it looks as if that is the preferred method. The one nice thing they still do is put the old fashioned pre-reg form on page 11 of the mailer, chock full of anything you might want to spend money on, outside of the dealers' area and the flea market.

So, avoiding all the crazy behind the scenes talk one could get from sites like TMP, what's going on at the con?

It's still at the Valley Forge Convention Center, and there actually is a mention of the convention being slightly smaller this year. The hotel listings wisely do not include either the Scanticon or the Radisson, as both have been booked solid since just after Cold Wars. For a near holiday weekend, in the middle of a Philadelphia Summer, seem reasonable but not fantastic.

For someone who usually hits a con for two full days only, I was kindly reminded that scheduled gaming runs from 10am Thursday through 5pm Sunday, and that doesn't include impromtu games running Wednesday night!

This year's theme is "Brother Against Brother," covering the whole gamut of the American Civil War. The art for the souvenir t-shirt is a piece from Osprey showing General Armistead leading troops during Pickett's charge. I'm more of a simple t-shirt guy, and the two large Confederate flags limit my use of the t-shirt outside of gaming events. Trust me, dealing with the culturally sensitive and insensitive over the course of one of my days is just not worth it.

Special Non-Gaming Events
There a raffle for the chance to win two separate art prints by Keith Rocco: "Devil's Den" and "140th New York at Little Round Top." There is also a donation drive to support "Project Hougoumont" a project to save the Hougoumont Farm on the site of the Battle of Waterloo.

Of course, there are the standards: HMGS War College, The Hobby University (hoo-ray painting minis!), and the dozens of tournaments for DBA, DBM, HOTT, and a bunch of other abbreviations I must confess ingorance of... And Flames of War gets to be a pain in the ass by taking up a vast expanse of space for their tournament, which I never saw played last year!

The coolest thing is sponsored by the HAWKS. There are two separate games which are for the under-12 crowd. At the conclusion of the game, the young players get to keep their fully painted, plastic AWI armies. This is certainly a great effort and should be worthy of a donation or six to keep it going every year. As much as seeing the kids playing games is great, it is even better to have them play a historical game at a historical wargaming convention (and this is one of the Gnome Wars guys saying it!)

Perhaps the one final piece of noteworthy info is a lack of it. Under future convention themes, both 2012 and 2013 are listed as July TBD. Hopefully, we'll get some clarification at Historicon, or the rumor mill will be rumbling mighty fierce.

It brings me joy to see next year's theme is "Empires at War" - Colonial Warfare Imperialism, and Gunboat Diplomacy 1837-1937. Looks like my Rorke's Drift game idea might come to fruition (click on the Zulu War tag for more info).

The theme of 2013 is "Scots at War." I just picture a big-ass game of Gnome Wars with hordes/clans of marauding Scots. Sounds like fun.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Another Burning Plastic?

Perusing this internet thing I discovered that someone else has used the Burning Plastic name!

It looks like a bunch of teenagers sick with GW, adapted some existing rules (Fighting Plastic) and tried playing some skirmish level games.

At first glance, the rules are definitely passable. Target number or lower to hit. Lots of +1/-1 modifiers. Nothing too crazy. The biggest problem I saw was movement. A foot for infantry, two for tanks, three for helicopters. What pictures were on the site showed small battlefields, so maneuvering is basically turn one only. Maximum movement for a tank equals maximum movement for infantry.

The website hasn't been updated since 2008, so I don't we'll ever have a copyright lawsuit.

Anyway, I like my suicide bombers to be self-destructing robots.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

(Review) Call of Cthulhu 6th Edition Keeper's Screen

I did receive my 6th Edition Keeper's Screen in the mail yesterday. Again, a shout out to for getting it to my door in three business days.

First off, the description for Chaosium's site:
A 3-Panel Keeper's Screen mounted on thick hardcover stock that folds out to 33 inches wide. One side, intended to face the players, portrays an investigative scene. The other side collects and summarizes important rules and statistics, to help ease the Keerper's task. The package includes a 22"x34" Mythos Vade Mecum poster by the mad french artists Christian Grussi and El Théo, postulating relationships between the deities and minions of the Cthulhu Mythos.

When they say it's mounted on thick hardcover stock, they're not kidding! My rough measurement makes each panel 1/5 to 1/4" thick, which is guaranteed to stop any projectile dice. The front of the screen is a beautiful, yet fairly generic scene:
The Center Panel of three

The Keeper side of the screen contains basic combat/injury info, a recap of insanity, and, of course, the resistance table. With CoC there isn't much that one needs to reference. On my own generic Gamma World 2nd Edition screen that I picked up for fifty cents, I have clipped on copies of all those items, save the size adjustments for ranged weapons. Still, the screen is solid, sturdy, and just useful enough for purchase. It is about two-thirds as high as a traditional screen, so that may limit my use of full page notes behind it, and a need to pack some post-its with me.

The Mythos Vade Mecum poster is nice, but I'm not going to hang it on any wall. I can picture throwing darts at it to figure out which big baddie is responsible for this week's session.

I was disappointed that there was no throwaway scenarion included inside. Even The Terrible Trouble at Tragidore, from the AD&D 2nd Edition screen was mined for useful items. Then again, the 2nd Edition AD&D screen was useful for the first month and disintegrated afters a few months of lugging it around to gaming sessions. This new CoC screen might actually survive being drug from session to session... dragging behind the car on a gravel road.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

How d20 saved the gaming industry... and other fallacies

I need to stay off of, just like I need to stop reading comments at the end of yahoo articles, and I don't need the extra cookie.

Although, while I'm in stream of consciousness mode:

Lesson from Maja: Horses eat pie and applesauce, but not apple pie.

I'm certainly amazed by the idea that 3rd Edition/d20 brought back the rpg industry/hobby from the dead. Let's look back, shall we...

The second half of the 1990's. TSR had reached the same glut with 2nd Edition AD&D, if not more, than it had with 1st. Magic had permeated all corners of gamerdom. Spellfire and Blood Wars fizzled and then the great chain store book return fiasco happened. TSR was in bad shape.

Let's change perspective. Imagine a small town gaming store. It's profit is derived from products the in-store gaming promotes. AD&D, both generic and RPGA are offered. Battletech leagues are played. Games Workshop is avoided, if only because the profit margins are so slim. AD&D is a solid, but not the majority of sales.

Add in the fiasco at TSR and the first question from the Store Manager? The only important one: "Can we get PHBs through distribution channels." That's it. For as much as new TSR product did drive in weekly/monthly customer visits, PHBs outsold everything, and I'm pretty certain this works the same in most other stores.

So, PHB delivery is sporadic at best. What's a store to do? How about diversify or die. Mordheim and Necromunda Leagues are the games of choice. Other rpgs are promoted, which increased sales, but not the entire amount lost by TSR. Accessories are invested heavily: dice, bags, bumper stickers. "Candy display" items that will eat away at the spending cash of the customer. And of course, an increased interest in Magic, so booster packs and singles are looked through again.

All-in-all, the store would have survived, so long as the staff was willing to experiment, promote, and listen to their customer base.

Then WotC bought TSR and the great 3rd Edition/d20 was released. Not that it wasn't a financial windfall, as 2nd Edition was as well. Three new core books and an ability for 3rd party publishers to release compatible product? Fantastic, until you notice the order book. Guys whose friend's cousin once did the dry cleaning for Gary Gygax's 7th grade English teacher jumped in to make a buck. Other rpg companies shelved production of their own books to make d20 material. Historical boardgame companies produced stuff. WHITE WOLF was making fantasy material for geeky D&D. I'm all for capitalism. I'm all for more choices for the consumer, but a store having to pick and choose which items to stock was difficult. There were just too many items to stock everything, and if you did, was everything worth restocking. Was a second copy actually going to fly off the shelves.

I will not comment on the core book price increases (which were expected) or the release of 3.5, as these disgruntled D&D fans only. I won't completely color d20 evil, as plenty of quality games came out. But stores had a problem bigger than the Magic glut a few years earlier. When everybody and their brother released a CCG, the smart stores stocked the licensed items that most people "should" be interested in and when a questionable game came out, they wisely invested in a box of boosters and starers. The Magic gravy train allowed for experimentation. Players always bought more booster packs.

With role-playing, the average player is a casual player, and they only purchase the PHB. So, when the initial fanfare wore off, you don't have nearly as rabid a base, and an increasing supply of new product becoming available. Pretty soon, most stores faced extremes: Either they had shelves chock full of product, or were two scared/too stupid to listen to customers and stocked nothing. For the stores with product, that turned from shelves to discount boxes...LOTS of boxes.

Where does that lead us now, a few years after 4th edition hits the street? After having two oppounities in the last twenty years to focus on diversification (Magic glut of profit, and TSR's failure forcing them to), stores continue to ride the cash cows till they die of exhaustion, and unfortunately, some of these cash cows have died, tipped over, and fell on top of the stores. The stores in the area focus on three categories (1) closed due to finacial incompetence (2) divested from role-playing, and (3) stil trying to ride the Magic/D&D/GW cash cosh with no sign of future plans.

It's sad. The number one item on my want list currently is the latest Call of Cthulhu Keeper's screen. I've never owned one and it's inexpensive enough to feed my need for new gaming without breaking the bank. Do you know that I can't find one in stock at any brick-and-mortar store without driving past State College or nearing Harrisburg or Philly. That's two hours of driving both ways for a $15 screen!

The reasons are simple. The closest place, in downtown Wilkes-Barre (Golden Unicorn), has moved into the Scranton area, and has disappeared off the map. No phone number, a vague address at best. My old comic book store (Essential Comics) twice the distance, got sold to a crew in Bethlehem, and they effectively canibalized the place. The Unknown in downtown Scranton? Closed up shop and merged with the store another 15 minutes north (Adventure Games). They unfortunately have horrible hours, focus on computer games, and stock largely D&D, Magic, and old Star Wars minis. With all the effort I made to get to the store, only to find it closed when it was supposed to be open, plus a general indifference in customer service, I refuse to even make a laughing try to place a special order.

I could try the Encounter in Stroudsburg, no wait, they closed up due to the worst managerial decisions and general incompetence I have ever seen. And these guys were racking in the dough from Magic, Pogs, Beanie Babies, and every other collectible trend known to man. Plus, even if they were still open, they screwed up special orders for me multiple times in the past. There was 20% chance they would stock the item normally, so it would have been worth it to drive down while visiting friends.

That leaves me witha 90-minute drive to White Knight Game Room in Williamsport, no sorry, they closed their doors to. Tons of stock with no sales makes the decision to close easy when money's tight.

Maybe drive down to my old stomping grounds in the Lehigh Valley? Phantom of the Attic focuses on collectible items, and I remember Tony's special ordering habits from his days as ACME Collectibles. Portal, the guys who gutted my comics stomping ground? Possibly my weakest argument. I could imagine placing the special order that would work, but by the time it would come in, I would be back at work and money would be tight, particularly with Historicon coming up. Plus, I still have sour grapes.

Dreamscape? Nick would order it if asked, but the track record of him using Previews/Star System for gaming order has been sketchy? He's great for comics only, and now avoids the headaches of gaming.

Maybe Cap's? I know, it's been dead for years. Finally, the Allentown Encounter would be a nice place to buy my Crystal Meth, not comics and games. They focus on Magic (and drugs), and give me even fewer reasons to visit Allentown.

I finally went onto I know, it's probably cheaper on Amazon, but I despise them for poltical and employee relations reasons. With shipping I ended up paying four dollars more than retail, but given the travel expenses I would need to pay to buy it "locally" (haha heehee), it was a steal.

Now if my guys could actually get together and play the damn game.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

(RPG) Over-rated!

It's been a week with the mundanes, and when I wasn't working on parties and playdates, I've been working the "very special" gaming session Sunday. Lots of printous and such. I've got some Gnome Wars painting to do as well.

I've been lurking through the forums at lately, and I still wonder why I even go back. Actually, it's the Jerry Springer effect. The forums, from Role-playing Open to Tangency, make the worst TMP forums look like a diplomatic discussion of educated, well-mannered people.

The one topic that I trudged though 15 pages of was, "What RPG is most overrated" or something within that vein. Withing seconds, it devolved into a subjective hate-fest, with a crazy discussion on the need for social mechanics in RPGs. In a hobby with a definitive quote of, "If there's any girls there, I want to DO THEM!," I have to giggle.

I will try my best and be objective, because this isn't a love/hate fest.

Overrated: To overestimate the merits, rate too highly.

This can be created three ways: Through company promotion (advertising), unwarranted critical reviews (critics), and the consumers' community (fanboys). Mass popularity tends to void this. Ford, McDonalds, and Microsoft might suck, but they are so pervasive in society that the average person admits that their products are at best, average. Lamborghini, Ruth Chris Steakhouse, and that fancy boutique down the street. They definitely have a better opportunity to be overrated. They are NOT vanilla.

So here we go:

TORG: Chalk this one up to company hype. Way back in the early 90's, West End Games bought full page ads in Dragon Magazine for months hyping their next big thing. We now know this as the multi-genre amalgamation known as TORG. The reviews that came in (critics), and if they were any positive towards the creators, the reviewers would be cooking breakfast the next morning wearing only their favorite shirt.

Unfortunately, the "ground-breaking" mechanics, cinematic play, and multi-genre setting did not bode well for casual play for the average gamer. Don't get me wrong, there have been a number of fantastic Torg games through the years, and if Russ and Todd ever start running again, I'd ponder sacrificing my children for a seat at the table. Even in the age of massive stat-block 3e/4e games, the average GM simply does not have the time to properly pull off a good game, and the average player is not enthused about such a wacky setting, even if a campaign focuses on one genre.

As much as I wanted to believe the hype, Rifts would have been a better choice for me back in the day.

d20 OGL The 3rd Edition/d20 craze was fueld by the ability of third parties to produce their own materials, any idea, any genre, so long as it followed the OGL rules. A new edition of the most popular RPG in the world, and a glut of new material turned it into a "one true game" for some. WotC/Third parties hyped the ability to play different styles/genres, the reviews harped on new games like Spycraft and Mutants and Masterminds, and the fanboys? Oh the fanboys. "d20 can be used for anything!" was a regular cry, yet we all knew that was impossible. If GURPS couldn't be used for every setting (and it tries better), a system geared towards fantasy can not do the same.

Ten years later, we see what's left. Pathfinder. And people have finally begun to expand their horizons again with different games. Thank God. Again 3e D&D isn't overrated, d20 is.

I'll need some time to go over mini/board/card game options....