Wednesday, December 31, 2014

RPGaDay #31 Favorite RPG of All Time

Sure, I can run D&D from memory.  Okay, I love to tinker with Talislanta evolving skill and magic systems.  Yes, TWERPS is the "The World's Easiest Role-Playing System and RISUS is the simplest.

But if I had only one RPG, I would give that honor to Call of Cthulhu 6th Edition. 

It took many years to move over from sword and sorcery gaming  to Lovecraftian horror, but I think that was needed.   CoC is not D&D in the 20's.   Combat is rarely needed, and when it is, it is terrifyingly brutal.  Investigation solves many of the world's secrets man was not meant to know, and when it's doesn't, a PC sacrifice or six of the highest order won't necessarily stop the oncoming terror, but it will delay it, for another group to attempt to delay it further.

While combat can sometimes get bogged down in minutiae, the skill system is a percentile masterpiece.  The skill advancement system rewards those who try and try again, and I can wrap my head around  ability checks of Conx5 or Strx2 rather than a set number in a system such d6 Star Wars.

I haven't even run the system for a 1/3 of my gaming life, but I can easily see me teaching potential gamers how to role-play using CoC, rather than the current incarnation of D&D.

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

RPGaDay #30 Rarest RPG Owned

Rarest RPG owned?   I mistook this for oldest RPG owned (not necessarily still read) and was ready to post pictures for the Revised City-State of the Invincible Overlord.   The problem is that the 80 page book went through three different printings.  That might be a substantial enough print run to push it past the "rare" category despite it's age. 

And rare does not automatically connote valuable.  The sheer demand for older D&D books drives the price of them into the range of hundreds of dollars.  Sure the white box has become rarer and rarer over the years, but I've seen three of those bad boys in the last decade.  I'm the only person I know who has (much less seen) a copy of The End and I'm assuming that print run (in the d20 glut) was much higher. 

So what item do I still own that has a low print run and pretty impossible to obtain.

Here's a curveball... The T.W.E.R.P.S. Files by Reindeer Games.

Despite their low-cost between $2-4 apiece, TWERPS and its bevy of supplements enjoyed  decent (if not profitable) print runs and sales thanks to the ads that ran in old issues of Dragon.    The T.W.E.R.P.S. Files suffered from being the twelfth and final supplement produced for the game.  I can't remember ever seeing another copy of it beyond mine (and trust me it's one of the lesser products in terms of information and the trademark punny names.)

In searching for a picture, I did discover a nice blog with TWERPS love, that also includes the unofficial thirteenth supplement Adventures in Time and Spacey-Wacey

Monday, December 29, 2014

RPGaDay #29 Most Memorable Encounter

Most Memorable Encounter?  Great question for the noob, but after 25 years I've forgotten encounters greater than the sum of some players entire experiences.  Where to begin?

How about my playtest of the Talislanta game I was going to run at Lehicon back in '91.  My friend Charles was running Draxx the Saurud, an oversized, super-strong, low intelligence reptilian race that could be a PC in the 2nd Edition.  In hindsight he ran it like a fantasy version of a Ram Python from Battlelords of the 23rd Century.  At one point, they discovered the back end of a one-way secret door.  At some point, Draxx got his hand stuck the the door trying to open it the wrong way, and in his panic, he ripped the door away.  I always thought that was ridiculously impressive.

The time in our Hackmaster campaign when Mutumbo inadvertantly killed a party member by training like Rocky?

My first Risus-IOU game that involved a Funnelcake Mecha and Yoda fighting Snake Gandhi on the top of a Ferris Wheel?

The Return of Echellon?

I guess the winner would have to be It's a Wonderful Reunion from my AD&D "College Game."

The advantage of being a hybrid college student who stayed at the dorms, had a car, and lived less than a half-hour from campus was that I could cultivate my new group of gaming friends while staying in contact with my old friends "back home."   The College Game was the most ambitious campaign I have ever done, just in the sheer scope of the campaign, the number of players involved, and the logistics of a rolling cast of characters.

The Spring semester was coming to an end, and the number of players who would not be able to meet to game almost put the campaign on Summer hiatus.  But I had an idea.

First thing, I had all the characters whose players were avaible get teleported to Talislanta.

Not just the people, but the entire inn they were staying at. Over the next three months Ashe, our half-elf ranger, Rolf, the barbarian from the plains of Galmar, Norm Dingleberry, dwarf fighter, and a few others were caught in a series of quests to obtain the materials necessary to recreate the teleport spell.

Back in the Kingdom of Crosedes, I really had the remaining PCs split up. Party mage Mellandria had become a Baronial Sorceress in some far-flung corner of the Kingdom, Velandro the cleric was setting up a school for wayward kobolds, and one by one, others left until it was essentially down to Talis Makolin, Echellon the Cleric, and the retinue of NPCs.

Returning to their headquarters in the Barony of Eding, Talis and Echellon were thrust into the public eye due to a series of natural disasters, baronial abdications, and a haphazard attempt by the “Dread Lord” of Crosedes to usurp power. By the fall of that year, the duo was left near penniless from saving the barony from monsters, disasters, and starvation, and the moneylender came calling.

When the Chateau D’Echellon was built (see the Return of Echellon above), his manservant Carthon made tidy sum selling livestock to purchase the property but between the cost and day to day expenses, he had taken out a decent sized loan with a reputable man, Nebuchadnezzar Tinpenny. With the doom and gloom in the barony, Tinpenny was executing a clause in the loan requiring payment in full for the remainder of the loan. I left Hoyce and Steve (Talis and Echellon’s players) in a funk as I left for the semester and started the Summer game without them.

For the triumphant return to gaming, I announced the first game of the Fall semester would be the night of move-in. The group had not communicated between each other, so I took full advantage of the dorm basement and separated each group, brought some props, and started It’s a Wonderful Reunion…

World of Georic, Continent of Talaishia, Kingdom of Crosedes, Barony of Eding, Chateau d’Echellon...
The month of Decdec in the year 1061 – Somewhere around the Guyan holiday of Yule….

· The Chateau was quiet and cold. Most of the furniture and accoutrements had been given away to people worse of, destroyed in the chaos, or sold off to afford supplies. Talis, Echellon, his manservant Carthon, and Dew, the heavyset nursemaid/servant sat quietly around the small fire in the fireplace, overcome with a depression that a dinner of mashed up corn dodgers couldn’t solve. Any day now, Mr Tinpenny would return from Hydincal and seize the estate, and god only knew how many other townsfolk had a feel his greedy wrath from similar arrangements. Even their intelligent wolf, Pathfinder, curled up in the corner in a defeated pose.

· Then the door opened to young Timmy, an orphan adopted by the party and (Echellon in particular). His little nine-year old frame struggled with a fair-sized evergreen tree that he had cut down himself. “It’s Yule!” the young boy cried out an infectious enthusiasm, as even our despondent heroes could not argue with him (much) and found themselves hanging mistletoe garland and fetching a few more logs for the fire. Traditional songs were sung and Dew went into the kitchen to whip up something with the remaining foodstuffs, and a collection of cheap liquor Talis had squirrelled away. Despite their odd make-up, this was the closest many of them had felt to a family in a long time.

· A knock at the front door (and the basement door of the dorm) Mellandria returned for the holidays. She came bearing gifts, some more food for the occasion, and some big questions as to what happened in town, where everyone was, etc. They barely scratched the surface of the last few months (much less the moneychanger) when there was …

· Another knock at the door. This time it was noble Velandro, Cleric of Akana, Defender of Goodness and Light, and Protector of Kobolds, Small and Smaller. With him was his trusty kobold sidekick, Dag, Dag’s wife, and their two wee ones. All came bearing gifts for Yule, and the scampering of Timmy and the kobold kids turned the growing chaos into a fever pitch.

· The next knock at the door was barely audible. It was some of the nearby villagers who spotted the numerous arrivals up the estate’s road and wanted to be friendly (and nosey) neighbors, sharing what little they had left with the party.

· The subsequent knock brought an even greater cheer than others. Ashe, the half-elf ranger and one or two others who “disappeared” in Hydincal months before, finally came back. He barely got out the story of travelling to Talislanta when…

· The door burst open with other members of the village, merchants, peasants, and tradesmen alike, all getting word of some celebration at the Chateau and wishing to share their gratitude to Talis and Echellon. Cups were raised for toasts, food was being prepared, carols sung, and few people brought their instruments to form an impromptu band. 

· The holiday cheer could only be subdued by the next knock at the door. Upon opening it, they found the snow covered body of Rolf Wolfsblood, barbarian warrior. In the teleport back to Georic, he had become separated from Ashe and the rest of the Talislanta party and trudged back to Eding with little winter clothing. Blankets, warm drinks, and a spot right by the fire were afforded to him. They did notice some unusual facial tattoos (see above pic) had been begun but not finished.

· Then Mister Tinpenny arrived, complete with a squad of royal soliders to complete the transaction and seize the land. Despite all the goodwill and cheer in the home, the villagers could barely scrape together a handful of silver, and the Talislanta party had lost a good portion of their treasure during the teleport. What they had with them wasn’t nearly enough, and Tinpenny wasn’t interested it strange magical artifacts from other worlds. All was lost.

· Just then came a small knock at the door. Outside was everyone’s favorite nose-picking, low intelligence dwarf, Norm Dingleberry. He too had gotten lost upon return from Talislanta, but upon his pony (My Lyl)  was the chest of gold that everyone feared lost. That, and a pile of jewels beneath the gold were more than enough to pay Tinpenny and sent him packing. The soliders were invited to stay and celebrate with them.

· As if there couldn’t be any other appearances that night, there was (surpsrise!) another knock at the door. This time a royal scribe, escorted by a five knights on heavy horse. He had a formal proclamation from the king. A new Baron had been named by King Celowin…. Echellon D’Eding!!!!

· As the players were finally reunited as the characters were, there was a tremendous amount of cheering and glad tidings among all. But there was one more knock at the door in-game. Talis opened it and was met by a kobold Mariachi band, a foot of snow on their sombreros, playing Feliz Navidad at the top of their little lungs. Sure it was a bit anachronistic, but I my friend (and Rolf’s player) Phil draw a picture of the band that fit the mood almost as perfectly as it closed the scene.

Sure, it was corny, it was sentimental, and it was railroad-y as hell, but it reunited the group, rewarded them for their selflessness, and made the group attached all the NPCs encountered (save Tinpenny).

I never made stats for the one-time appearance of the Mariachi band (I did have one sub-species of kobold with Spanish accents), but it looks like somebody finally did it.

Sunday, December 28, 2014

Saturday, December 27, 2014

Mandatory Holiday Swag Post

The holidays have hit me like a ton of bricks.  Between a million errands to run, chores to do, and illnesses to avoid, I'm downright exhausted.  Funny thing is, my internal clock is hitting on all cylinders as I'm waking up on my own at 5am.

No rest for the wicked?

Despite some logistical issues with my presents (my wife needed to run out at 4pm Christmas Eve to pick them up at the FLGS), and the majority of the relatives showing up any other day than Christmas Eve, I feel the normal post-holiday relief, but also a sense of peace.  

Even though my non-gamer wife had a cryptic Amazon wish list to work with, she pulled off a coup, with three items I wouldn't have ordered anytime soon, if ever.

Call of Cthulhu: Cold Harvest - Nothing like investigating during Stalin's Purges of the 30's.   Azathoth, Shub-Niggurath, and Cthulhu could have a non-Euclidian tea party in the Kremlin, and they wouldn't meet the dread and horror created by normal humans.  I'll be reviewing it in the new year.

Call of Cthulhu: New Orleans Guidebook - Haven't gotten to it yet, but it should be an awesome accompaniment to Tales of the Crescent City.

Battletech Introductory Boxed Set:  By God, you can still get a complete miniatures game for $60.00!   TWENTY-SIX Battlemechs are included, and the hex maps are printed on thick, sturdy boards.   This throws my painting board in my war roomin complete disarray.

My sister sent me The Complete Annotated H.P. Lovecraft.   It's almost as heavy as the B'Tech box and is full of amusing references.

Even though they are still the brunt of gamer hatred, the only reason I got angry at Hasbro this week is their absolute incompetence  in manufacturing parts and writing instructions for my kids' My Little Pony  Twilight Sparkle Princess Palace.  No uniform parts, ill fitting grooves,  and instructions requiring 2 1/2 adults to hold it together between steps.  Ultimately I worked backwards and got it together, only for Millie to tear it down an hour later.  Next time I'm using super glue.  

My daughter Maja got a copy of Don't Rock the Boat, a balancing game.  The pirate penguins and the ship are just the right size to tempt me to snag a few copies and set up a scenario.

RPGaDay #27 Game You'd Like to see an Improved Version of

In this new-fangled world were pdfs can be posted online almost automatically, and people have enough disposable income to buy an rpg line just to reprint it, there aren't many games I'd like to see a new or improved version of a game. 

But there's one glaring omission:


An RPG dedicated to the classic Saturday morning cartoons, just with the serial numbers filed off.  Zany hijinx? Gratuitous (but not permanent) violence?  Anvils falling from the sky?  All are covered. 

The material is universal enough, and the system elegant enough to accomodate non-gamers and even kids in a purely fun setting.  There may be dark moments in a game, but the session should be as light-hearted as possible.

We've used Toon for "straight" cartoon games, holiday games more akin to Rankin-Bass specials than direct-to-DVD fare, and, of course, we've been quite successful with our "Cthulhu Comes to Springfield"  game. 

I don't know why Steve Jackson Games stopped printing it, especially with multiple supplements out for it.  Here's hoping in the age of OGRE and Car Wars making a comeback, some of the products relegated to the fourth tier see the light of day again as well.

Friday, December 26, 2014

RPGaDay #26 Coolest Character Sheet

Whether there was type-setting capabilities or you programmed it onto a computer, a character sheet for a game never survives past the sheet in the back of the book, if it's there at all.

While "innovative" character sheets have ranged from six pages of charts, to character journals, to a basic index card, two things must stand out:  utility and nostalgia.

The official AD&D 2nd Edition Character Sheets have nostalgia in spades for me, even though there are some faults to its design.


Thursday, December 25, 2014

RPGaDay #25 Favorite RPG No One Wants to Play

As someone who was once given the title of "Games Guru of the Lehigh Valley" by more than one person, there have been a LOT of games that I've been interested in that have netted zero players. Once you get out of the D&D/Big License umbrella that covers 95%+ of all gamers out there, anything else is "weird."

Today I'll drop a list of stuff I'm definitely not going to be playing anytime soon.  These will include "Once and Future Games" where I may have run successful campaigns using the system before, but the chances of convincing the current or other group to play it are slim to none.  It also includes campaign concepts that are outside the realm of  "normal" gaming. It would be bad enough to put up a traditional tear off sheet at the FLGS looking to run a Castle Falkenstein game.  Make it a CF game set entirely in Australia, and your options usually dwindle to less than nothing.

#7 Gamma World
I haven't played it in two decades, and I only own scraps of the 1st edition, but Gamma World is so wacky and gonzo that it's a blast, once you get going.  I would hunt down a copy of 4th edition (which is also known as 3rd Edition D&D done right, a decade before it was made.)  There's still a feel of 2nd Edition, mixed with sci-fi, mixed with some of the mathematical corrections, such as an armor class that goes up.

#6 Mouse Guard
I ran this once to try it out years ago, I love the system, and if someone else can buy into it, it would make for a great troupe-style campaign, with multiple people taking over the GM reins.  Alas, anthropomorphic mice who are to scale are lower on the list than Adolescent Blackbelt Hamsters. After the Reaper II finally lands, and a few packs of mice warriors from Eureka, I'd like to make this the lazy snowbound winter afternoon game for the girls, but they each need a few years before they're old enough.

#5 Talislanta
It's been 15 years since the last successful campaign, which was a summer interlude between semesters in our college game.  The traditional AD&D tropes were thrown into Tal, characters converted, and most survived unscathed.  It was great because I could throw out some completely wacky modules that had no place in a "real" D&D game, tweak them to logically fit into Talislanta, and no one even blinked.  I still have my complete run of books up through the WotC era, and I'd probably use Third Edition and play a lot more with the open magic system

#4 The Gnomish Space Marines
Still trying to hammer down the correct system (definitely percentile), but taking the old parody song out of Dragon Magazine, converting to the "tough" space opera style we used in TWERPS (yes TWERPS), and giving it a healthy dose of nostalgic sci-fi modules and some Rogue Trader era flavor.  It's a mish-mash of tropes that I'm trying to avoid using d6 Star  Wars or Star Frontiers, but I want this to be a hoot.

#3 Call of Cthulhu: Cult of Nevoz
I know, I play this more often than all other RPGs, combined, but this campaign never gets any traction, with the limited info I provide to players. This is a CoC modern campaign that's a bit more Ghostbusters than Delta Green or X Files, and my reading in the genre is lacking but here goes.  The world has already experienced the Ghostbuster movies in real life and have come to accept the supernatural in some ways.   In return, some of the creatures of myth and legend have emerged from the shadows and have joined the fringes of society.  No, unlicensed nuclear accelerators are frowned upon, but you could have a headless Thompson gunner or a werewolf in London, and all of them could be gambling in Havana.   Oh yes Nevoz = Warren Zevon and a catalog odd songs that could be used for some very creepy roleplaying.

#2  Recon

Image from  Purchase it now!
This under appreciated gem in the Palladium catalog was all about combat during the Vietnam War.  PCs had there roles in the squad and didn't have any non military skills, outside of possibly foreign language skills. They really weren't even expected to make through their tour of duty, so why bother?  Two decades ago, I used some of the rules in Advanced Recon and ran a micro campaign in West Africa in the late 70s/early 80s and it was phenomenal.  I'd like to run that again and make the mercs a little more colorful than meat shields with stats.

#1 "Home"
No one ever bit on my offer to run "Polynesian D&D" and that's a shame.  What  everyone dismissed as beautiful weather and men in grass skirts was in reality a reverse dungeon based off of the classic module X1: Isle of Dread.

PCs would be young natives reaching their coming of age ceremony and finding not only their place in society, but some of the secrets of the island as well.

System wise, I would keep basic D&D (Rules Cyclopedia) for combat skills, integrate BRP skills, and slap on Talislanta's magic system to cover the elementalists that live on the island.    All that, plus the Zombie Masters running amok and months of Dragon/Dungeon articles during the 3e era that could be mined for ideas?  I just need the interested group.

Even a Snow Job Deserves a Coffee Break

Merry Christmas to all!  Thanks for reading, and if you're stuck outside today, make sure to drink something warm.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Holiday Paper Minis

It's going to be a loooong weekend for many of us, so what's there to do after the presents are opened, eggnog finished, and the kjottbollar eaten?

Games, of course!!!  The simpler the better.  You don't want bloated, exhausted people trying to learn Squad Leader!

Okum Mart has three holiday/winter products that a can produce hours of fun.  All you need is a color printer.

A winter wonderland full of cardstock figs ready to be printed for a dollar.  I'm almost tempted to download this at work and print it out.  Probably wouldn't be fired for one sheet.

If I did want to get fired right before the holidays, I'd print out Snowball Wars.

Lots of different stuff, and now it's half-priced.
If you need more of a holiday version....

RPGaDay #24 Most Complicated RPG Owned

When I first started gaming, role-playing was in the waning years of complicated games.  Perfect examples of this were Rolemaster ("Chartmaster") and most of the Fantasy Games Unlimited games, some of which had elegant mechanics, hidden among convoluted paragraphs of text.

The only game I have left that feeds off that vibe is Fantasy Wargaming
This game is better known to have statted out Jesus (false, but they do have the Virgin Mary).
The system isn't necessarily complicated like a multiple-chart/slide rule required FGU product, but it's just written so... obtuse.   Even the stat blocks for the demons, devils, and the saints are so over-complicated that I feel you need an astrolabe, an abacus, and some old chicken bones to figure out the modifiers to a relatively simple combat roll.

Tuesday, December 23, 2014

RPGaDay #23 Coolest Looking RPG/Book

Despite my penchant for older games with questionable art, I can appreciate a fantastic looking RPG. 

When I did #RPGaDAY by Tweet in August, I caved in and called Rifts the coolest looking RPG.  It just screams teenage boy power gamer (and rightfully so). 

But really, the coolest thing on my shelf right now is the *gasp* d20 version of The End by Tyranny Games.

Clean, classy, and given the subject matter, just enough like a religious text.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Pig Wars 4th Edition Now Available in Print!

I've only ever played in one Medieval/Dark Ages minis game, and that was Pig Wars back at Cold Wars 2002.  I enjoyed it so much, I snagged a copy of the (2nd Edition?) rules at the dealers hall.

Yes, I used to be waaaaaay more impulsive.  Before wives and kids.

Truth be told, I've never played another game of it, although I know it's still sitting in my drawer o' random wargaming books.  That being said, I have no problems celebrating Pig Wars 4th Edition becoming available in print!

From the blurb at Wargame Vault:
Why fight for love? Why fight for money or glory? Why not return to an era when men killed each other for something really valuable: farm animals! Pig Wars, 4th edition is an easy set of miniature rules for man to man combat in the ancient and medieval periods and is intended for individually mounted figures (base size is not important). Suggested unit size is 20 figures for foot and 10 figures for mounted with, in most scenarios, each player commanding 1 unit. Suggested unit compositions for 11th century Norman, Viking, Saxon, Irish, Welsh, Byzantine and Arab commands. The graphics are vastly improved over previous editions with lots of color pictures of nicely painted figures on the table-top. 4 scenarios are included: "Landwaster Commeth" a multi-faction 11th century mix-it -up where each faction has differing objectives. Also included is "Hastings: Last Battle of the Dark Ages", "Romans on the Rhine" a 1st century AD Romans vs Germans fight and (new) "Pigs in Greece" a 5th century BC Greco-Persian encounter. Of course, rules for flaming pig attacks are included. New material includes 2 user-created modules: A Dash of Saga which adds Saga and Norn cards that bring about events on the battlefield reminicent of the Icelandic sagas (think bloody). Also new is the Pig Wars Late Medieval Variant with rules and suggested unit compositions for the 14th and 15th centuries. By the author of Age of Reason/Napoleon/Discovery, A Firebell in the Night, Warfare at Sea in the Age of Reason, Samurai Knight Fever and Iroquois Terror. Continuing online support will be provided.
Note to owners of previous editions: the actual text of the rules haven't changed from previous editions except the addition of 1 new rule which randomized the intervals between the reshuffling of the player's cards rather than waiting until all cards have been played.

It's great to see a new edition that is more a reprinting than a major revision.

While the pdf version is available at Wargame Vault, the first place that announced they have the hardcopy was On Military Matters

RPGaDay #22 Best Secondhand RPG Purchase

I'm a bottom feeder of the worst way when it comes to store sales, convention auctions, and the like.  I've been know to bring in a box of stuff at an auction and come home with four boxes of stuff and and wad of cash in my hand.

But with the success of the local con, cheap auction wins for even absolute crap are hard to come by.

So my biggest snag that I can remember is Warhammer Fantasy Role-Play 1st (?) Edition for a buck!

I enjoy the career system and if I ever get a moment's rest this winter, I'd like to read during a blizzard and farm it for ideas.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

RPGaDay #21 Favorite Licensed RPG

I've been through tons of licenesed RPGs, some of which (Call of Cthulhu) I realized didn't even need a license.  And despite the Star Wars, Ghostbusters, and even multiple Indiana Jones RPGs out there, I go back to one of the first I played:  GURPS: Humanx

Fun Fact:  I have never read anything by Alan Dean Foster (I know, I know, I should correct that right now.)  But the presentation of the material makes it feel like a vibrant setting where all these weird races can logically exist (and saying that about a GURPS product and their reference book reputation is saying a lot!) 

Saturday, December 20, 2014

RPGaDay #20 Will Still Play in 20 Years Time

Here's the thing, I've been playing for 25 years, so the should I compare what I played back in 1994 to now?

Three nominees.
  • #3: Hackmaster -  D&D might be the Esperanto of Gaming, but Hackmaster 4th is just enough crunch mixed with parody to make this my preferred Fantasy game in 20 years. It might take that long to get the Trogs back together.
  • #2: Call of Cthulhu -  At the rate we're going, we'll be done with Masks in 20 years or so. Still haven't seen a reason to leave the 1st-6th Edition cradle of consistency. 
But the true winner should be:
  • Advanced Dungeons and Dragons, 2nd Edition
Although I started with BD&D and my high school campaign began with 1st Edition, I've logged in more hours of 2nd than any other game system.   I know the system front and back, so much so that I could probably run a game completely without books... and it would still be fair to everyone involved.
One disclaimer:  Core rules only.  No Kits.  No Handbooks.  No Skills and Powers.
You want to be some special freakin' snowflake.  Roleplay it!  Earn it!

Friday, December 19, 2014

Gifts for the Magic Player in Your Basement

It's interesting to see Magic: The Gathering articles pop up on my Google news feed.  The latest to come up covered Christmas Gifts for Magic: The Gathering fans on Etsy.

Wow, have things changed in 20+ years. 

Back in the early days of Magic, as I sat behind the counter of a store and moved product like a UN relief truck delivering supplies to a typhoon ravaged city, there were limited options for the person whose family member played Magic, all basically stocking stuffers.
  • Packs and Starter Decks: always good choices, but everything's fine until the Shivan Dragon got mixed in with the wrapping bag for the garbage.
  • Dice/Counters/Beads
  • Scrye Life Counter (by Reaper) a huge seller for us back in the day. The first version came in some horrible finishes, including blue and green. I was always partial to the copper myself.

  • Khalsa-Brain Spellground:  Before deck protectors were all the rage (and tournament legal), the only thing that separated your cards from a slimey tourney table was a Spellground.  Amusing thing is, they are still in business, although they are only doing print-to-order.

RPGaDay #19 Favorite Published Adventure

I am a member of the "If-it-ain't broke don't fix it" crowd as well as the "If it works, run it into the ground"
While there have been other modules that I've enjoyed more, I've run the Clearing of Castle Caldwell portion of B9: Castle Caldwell and Beyond over a dozen times, teaching dozens of people, young and old, how to roleplay.

Fun Fact:  I have never owned an actual copy this module.  I have owned, however, numerous copies of the compilation B1-9 In Search of Adventure

Of the adventure paths presented in B1-9, clearing Castle Caldwell is the most obvious choice for a group of brand-new adventurers (and players).  It's local for the PCs, so they can head home and rest if it gets too tough, the pay is very good, even for gold crazy Basic D&D, and it's only a one-story structure (mwhahaha).  The encounters present a chance for combat, role-playing, negotiation, a chance to run away, and even an early example as to why basic encumbrance rules are needed in D&D.  

The main castle is a great opportunity for a group to figure out their tactics without getting turned into a bloody pulp.  The second part, the Dungeon of Terror underneath is a classic bit of D&D railroading, but in the end, I've only ever lost two characters down there. 

I treat Castle Caldwell as a sparring match in a boxing ring to prepare someone for the real thing.    The next adventure I can take off the headgear, but they're still fighting some journeyman with a glass jaw and a 3-7 record, but if they're not careful, that left hook will leave them permanently on the floor.

Besides the Castle and the Dungeon, B1-9 also includes The Great Escape from B9, which requires the right group/mindset to play.  I've also used The Sanctuary of Elwyn the Ardent in my "College Game" as a heart-ripping railroad (as recommended in B1-9) to transport them to B3 Palace of the Silver Princess.

While it's almost universally panned in every review I've ever read (and some questionable editing in the B1-9 compilation), what people fail to notice is that the majority of TSR product (and beyond) are "gimmick dungeons."   Some, like B2 are lauded by all, and yet, when you pull away the gimmick, monster location and ecology and just as bad as they are in B9.  Castle Caldwell is a stock dungeon, one that only got respect or attention in a random issue of Dungeon. 

Edit:  I will also note, that I ran Clearing Castle Caldwell as the very first adventure for the above-mentioned "College Game."  A party of four 2nd Edition characters (Ranger, Fighter, Fighter, Cleric) with experience got through both levels with some bumps and bruises, but still ran around like crazed little girls when they opened the door to the courtyard.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Merry Wishlist Everyone of Us!

Yesterday was just one of those days.  I dedicated eight straight hours to a single report, and when that was done, I was met with a cryptic phone call from my wife, "Send me your wish list!"  A few minutes of fumbling around between my blog list, my Amazon list o crap, and my needs from the hardware department at Sears netted a little more info. 

"I'm at the game store, hurry up." 

Ultimately the Amazon list made it to her and she may or may not have placed a special order scant days before Christmas.  The only one harder to shop for than me might be my wife, and she sent blatant hints this year. 

Joe from Emerald Vale got high marks for professionalism and empathy from my wife.  She also got the skinny on the store moving!  It looks like zoning issues will prevent them from converting the former tattoo parlor into gaming rooms, so they'll eventually be moving a quarter mile or so down the road into an adjacent  property to my family doctor. 

Excitement for Christmas... And the future!

Recreational Conflict Christmas Sale!

I'm notorious for reading of some other's blogger's great online deal for seventy pounds of lead.  While there are alot of deals available right now, the one the I like the best is over at Recreational Conflict

They start off with 20% off their Lead Bones line of Civilians, Zombies, and Pulp-esque stuff.

On top of that, they're clearing out their Reaper Bones for 50% off, as well as their Trent Napoleonics, a variety of sci-fi minis, and a few other supplies and such worthy of a clearance.  There are no sales on copies of Herero War, but the sale is running post Christmas and it might be a good idea to snag a few cheap figures to offset the full price of the book.


RPGaDay #18 Favorite Game System

After 25 years of role-playing, the normal gamut of cycles of playing styles, and owning more books than some small town libraries, what is my favorite RPG system. 

I was tempted to yell out CoC since (a) I get compliments on how I run the system and (b) it's the only damn thing I run on a regualr basis.  But while CoC may be my go-to game, I'm actually still learning the wonkiness of the system.

I could go with Risus.  It's so simple, it's so clever, and I so don't need to roll dice half the time (but it's fun).  However, if it was my favorite system, I would be running it more than once a year.

Hackmaster?  Talislanta?  No, but they are strong influences on my choice.

Advanced Dungeons and Dragons (Either edition will do).

C'mon, it's the system of my youth.   I spent considerable space in my brain memorizing the charts so that today, if a bunch of people pointed guns to my head and demanded I run a D&D game, I would use this system and not even blink an eye.  For Christ's sake,  I  got THAC0, and if I understood it, you people are simply weak minded.

(Sidebar:  I never understood why people hated THAC0.  It's just a cleaned up version of the attacked matrix in the 1st Ed DMG  with systematic increases.  The two charts are almost identical.)

AD&D is how I compare new systems  AD&D is the basis for Hackmaster.  I can still see vestiges of AD&D in the new 5e books.  Heck, Talislanta's system was the stripped down version of AD&D and morphed into 3rd. 

For me, the system is quick and simple.  We had four gaming sessions where we fought more monsters than a 3rd-5th edition games fights in an entire campaign... and we may not have even levelled!

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

RPGaDay #17: Funniest Game I Played

I try my best to have the most fun I can every game I play.  I've also been accused in my early days of being "not serious enough" about my Gamemastering.

Over 20 years ago, as I schlepped through the halls of community college, the gaming club would meet every Tuesday afternoon.  Their organization had declined from the previous semester, so instead of on-going Battletech or D&D games, it was flavor-of-the-day game of choice.

On a previous week, another new recruit (and Eric) Eric Smith had introduced us to the wonders of TWERPS.  The first game was the classic "zombie dash to the chopper."   The next game we played was simply a variation of a theme "zombie dash to the piper cub."

No matter what, the game would have been a memorable one.  There was tension, tactics, and healthy dose of joking around. 

Then Glenn showed up.

Glenn was another new recruit for the club, but we should have seen the issues coming a mile away.  He professed himself a Born Again Christian who had been recently been a full-blown Satanist.   That didn't scare us away.   His wild rantings on stupid subjects didn't scare us away.   It didn't even scare us when he walked into the room, sat down at the table, and mid-game demanded that he play the Kermitnator. 

The counter and stats for the character were in one of the many TWERPS booklets we were perusing through.  And the second the amphibian/cyborg set foot on that airfield, all Hell broke loose, literally!

We went from killing zombies and running for our lives to fighting demons on the tarmac, and swiping pit fiends off the wings of the plane.  The only thing that matched the absurdity of the situation was the laughter (and the Holy-Rolled-Up-Newspaper-of-God, Wednesday Edition).

Ah we were so young and stupid.

Glenn's life goal is to win a game of religious bingo using the fill-the-board rules.  He's since turned atheist, agnostic, Catholic, and too many denominations of wicca and various pagan rites to count.  The few times we played with him since we never let him play the Kerminator.

...even if he asked.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

RPGaDay #16 Game You Wished You Owned

When I did the Twitter version of #RPGaDay, I picked Teenagers from Outer Space as my game I wished I owned.  No reason except that it would be inspiration for Illuminati University.

The difficulty is figuring out if there was a game that I wished I had and I DID NOT ALREADY OWN.  Since I've been know to cycle my collection faster than milk at a supermarket the day before a blizzard, this is easier said than done.

Despite going through the List of Role-Playing Games on Wikipedia, I couldn't find anything new  I wish I had a copy of .  Then I remembered that I do have another item for pre-order at the FLGS.

A hard-copy edition of Dagger.

Despite the measely $1 price for a pdf, I do want a physical copy in my hands, no matter how small it is. 

The kids picked up the concept of 5th Edition D&D pretty well (with Ponies), so using this for straight fantasy should be a cinch.

I also discovered Adventures in Oz.  Once pay day rolls around, I might download a copy of that .

And for the record, the games that I once owned and might wish to get a second copy would be Space: 1889, Recon, and Castle Falkenstein.

Monday, December 15, 2014

RPGaDay #15 Favorite Convention Game

For the last twenty years or so of my convention experience, I've been focusing largely on wargames/miniatures games.  This isn't to say that I haven't run or played in a few sessions of RPGs,   I gotten requests to run more Lost City games using D&D or Hackmaster, and one of my earlier Hackmaster session earned me my con nickname "Q."

But for all the games I've done at cons for 25 years, my favorite must be my GURPS - Illuminati University (IOU) game I ran at CoveCon, circa 1995:  "Scavenger Hunt."

The only drawback from picking this one is that I don't have a great record or recollection.  It was meant to be a test run for a real IOU campaign that never materilzed.

Characters were a mostly gamer stereotypes turned up to 11.  I can only rember two of them: Turnbull Sit, Physics major.   Tang-sniffing surfer dude with dyxlexia.  And he did his physics calculations in Egyptian Hieroglyphics.  And William, a D&D player gone the ways of Mazes and Monsters who actually thought he was a fantasy fighter.  Of course, his trusty magic broadsword was made of wood and his magic cloak was a tattered IOU sweatshirt, but he had just enough points in fencing to keep from dying.

The premise was simple:  The Annual IOU Scavenger Hunt was winding down the PC's team was in the thick of things.   With only a few hours left and such a close race, there was only one item that could give any team guaranteed victory:  the disco ball from the 1977 IOU Winter Social.  As the game started, the group had just uncovered its location:  The Steam Tunnels behind IOU.


Following the suggestion in the GURPS-IOU book, I took an old D&D dungeon and fnorded it into the steam tunnels.  Every encounter was life and death.. and hillarious.   Finally, the group dispatched a rival group of werewolf cheerleaders who were looking for the disco ball as well and they encounter the big bad evil:
The Village People, now turned necromancers, and their disco zombie hordes.
For thematic effect (and to torture the group) I popped in a Village People tape into my boom box and we grooved through the final battle.
Ultimately, they defeated the Village People, stopped the zombie threat, and claimed the disco ball to win the scavenger hunt. 
My players for the game were probably the greatest collection of gamers I have ever assembled for a four-hour time slot.   Intelligent, highly inventive, and just unpredictable enough to keep me on my toes without turning the game upside down.   I dispair to think that all of these gamers lived less than a half-hour drive from my house at the time, yet by the time the next local con rolled around, all but one of them had permanently moved out of the area.  Probably too much potential awesomess in one spot.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

RPGaDay #14 Best Convention Purchase

Here's a fun fact that I didn't realize until today's topic came up:  Almost all of my conventions purchases are either (a) card games (b) board games or (c) auction purchases that I mine for material and throw back into the auction a few cons later.

I can only recall buying two RPGs.   I snagged up Mouse Guard at a Mepacon a few years back.  We've only played one game of it, but I believe it was a great value (especially versus the current boxed set).  The other was Battlelords of the 23rd Century - 2nd Edition (1990)

I've discussed this before on my post about Lehicon IV, but I got commandeered into one of Larry Sims' games Saturday night at Lehicon, and I had no issue dropping twenty bucks for the softcover rulebook. 

Over the years I have played Battlelords a couple of times, and even ran it once.  I enjoy crunch in large doses, but the editing of every single edition of this game is so convoluted , that we would be looking up modifiers and various rules on a regular basis. 

Still, it had Eridanni Sword-Saints, Cizeraks (large sentient felines with weapons systems strapped to their back, Phentari (who loved the taste of human flesh), and the mascot of the game, the Ram Python.  The Ram Python's motto was "If it moves, kill it.  If it doesn't move, pick it up and kill it."  So much could be broken down to D&D in Space and the system was crunchier than a day-old cookie, but the book just evoked FUN, and usually that's the first thing we're looking for in a game.

I know they're working on another edition, and I know that the pdfs of the last edition are available at, but I got rid of this edition a loooong time ago, and I'd like to have it back. 

Time to scour e-bay...

Saturday, December 13, 2014

RPGaDay #13 Most Memorable Character Death

As much as I lambast those who fret about "game balance" I certainly don't want to throw my players (or my self) into a death trap.  As a GM, I do my best to give my players the most opportunities available to defeat an overpowering oppenent.  As a player, I do my best to avoid any situation that even hints at a single death, much less a TPK.

In my much more storied career as GM, I must admit the Death of Echellon/Death of Talis story arc is tops.  The current Cthulhu group is really trying their best to outdo it, though.

My experience with a death of a personal is extremely limited.  Playing it safe usually creates a low risk/low reward scenario, and I'm fine with that.

Over a decade ago, when the infamous Dr Bob wanted to get a Call of Cthulhu game started he ran a one shot game, set in 1920's Easton. 

Our intrepid group of college students and female companions were driving back from Bethlehem on some backroads when a severe downpour forced us from our convertible to the shelter of an abandoned house.  *Dun Dun DUNNNNNN*

As we investigated our leaky but stable structure, we kept finding creepier and creepier things: creaking floorboards, skulls, gnawed bones, and a (fully alive) hobo that had the same idea as us.  While we were partially separated throughout the house, the "owner" began stalking us.  Somehow all of us (hobo included) managed to escape the house into the now-steady rain.     The one student tried to fight it and failed miserably.  One of the co-eds got to the car, only to have it not start.  She too had a revolver, and rolled a 00. 

My guy was the only athlete in the group, and managed to run away a good distance.    It appeared that my mouse would elude this mysterious cat, but it was all a ploy.  I was struck down mere feet from the first real house on the backroad.

The (kung-fu) hobo? He eluded capture and his current whereabouts are unknown.

Friday, December 12, 2014

RPGaDay #12 Oldest RPG Still Played/Read

For a fella that doesn't role-play anymore, my options are surely limited. 

I could easily cop to Call of Cthulhu, but I'm not playing 1st or 2nd edition, and while edition 6.1.5124123 x pi is still similar, even the adventures I'm running are late 80's at the earliest.

That leaves the answer to today's question to be Top Secret.

Back in the day, I owned all of the 2nd Edition Top Secret/SI rules and supplements, but never played a game of it.  In fact, the only time I knew anyone running a game was when my friend Scott ran it at Lehicon IV. 

Perusing my copy here, there's all the trademarks of a TSR game not called D&D.  Random tables, poor editing, and samples of combat that don't quite make sense.   But the percentile system is calling to me as a basis for my Gnomish Space Marine game.  I can even adapt all the outdated tech to something a bit more futuristic without too many hassles.    The only thing I would need to scrap is the hand-to-hand system, which requires to attack declarations per turn as well as one defense.  It probably simulates competing styles and spy movie combat well, but if the PCs want to down and dirty, I'll make my version a bit quicker.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

RPGaDay #11 Weirdest RPG Owned

I'm a weird guy.  I like weird games.  Even my serious role-playing has a healthy dose of the eccentric in in. 

As much as I'm a HUGE fan of Illuminati University (IOU) and the sheer absurdity it creates, one game in my possession blows that out of the water.

While I must admit that I've never played a game of HōL, I've seen simply outrageous games conducted at cons that would make the worst game of Cards Against Humanity look like a Bridge game for retired nuns (Atomic Waffle Irons go where?)
How have I used it?
It's where I go when I want IOU to go dark... or cosmic.   My IOU group was forced to deliver the frozen corpse of Elvis to HōL, and it was not a pleasant experience.  Hopefully, they won't piss me off again. 
Then again I do have HōL stats for The King

Wednesday, December 10, 2014


Since I have done the #RPGaDay previously through Twitter, I've been working on expanding my tweets into full blown blog posts, AND get them done early to deal with any holiday craziness that may come around. Hitting the post for the 15th, I was hit with a wave of nostalgia and regret.   

With the holidays rolling around, I have to admit that I am a slave to tradition.  Even as a kid, I could care less about Christmas Day.  After the presents were opened by 9am, my family had breakfast and sort of did nothing. 

Christmas Eve, however was the be-all end-all of the holidays.    We would all pile into the car for the 55-minute drive at 55mph to my grandparent's house in Berkeley Heights.   Outside of the tree and dining room table, there weren't garish holiday decorations anywhere, just those few things that are ingrained in my brain:  The Swedish decorations (dala horses, julboks), the punch bowl, Canadian mints and Swedish fish.  Christmas Eve meant the pool table was cleaned off and the train set was up and running in the basement.  And after an afternoon of shooting pool, running the layout, and interacting with my relatives, it was time for dinner.  Swedish meatballs, lingonberries, limpa, rice pudding, and more jell-o than should be permitted by law.  

When we finish our rounds dessert and glogg, we would move over to the living room to exchange gifts.  The gift exchanges were never grandiose, my grandparents would usually give everyone checks, and outside of a hamster (and cage) for me and a bootleg Cabbage Patch Kid for my sister from my Aunt and Uncle, the other gifts were small, or clothes, or fill-the-house-with-laughter silly.  Then my sister and I would don our feetie pajamas and hopefully fell asleep on the drive home. 
As  I outgrew feetie pajamas, one glass of glogg to a 10 year old was enough to sleep through the drive, the night, and half of my winter vacation.  (I've since built up a nice tolerance).

Three decades later, I still try to instill as much family magic into Christmas Eve, but with two small kids, and non-Swedish family members filling the table over the past ten years, I try to appreciate the evolution of the event.

Similarly, every high school/teen movie and most high school graduating classes  have at least one obviously short-sighted character who just knows that high school will be the best years of everyone's lives and NOTHING WILL EVER CHANGE.   I was adamantly NOT that person, but years later some harmless regret may surface that I wish I was a little bit sentimental and tried a bit harder.

GURPS was our back-up plan after AD&D.  Fantasy, sci-fi, horror, even my own Red Dawn game used it.    Each year in high school I would run at least two different "events."  One was simply titled Apocalypse '90/'91/'92.  This used my GURPS-Napalm Death characters that evolved from the Red Dawn game and (surprise!) covered some horrible apocalyptic theme.   The second game was Slaughterama '90/'91/'92 which was a weak plot covering gladiator combat in different genres. 

How does this and my fondest Christmas memories go together?  For many gamers, it's hard enough to find time to game throughout the year, so the annual Christmas game, be it rpgs, minis, or what have you, is a time to pull out all the stops and be awesome.

For my high school group, those games were the closest thing to an annual Christmas game as we got.  Truth be told, we were probably playing our AD&D campaign over the break.  In hindsight, I should have kept my GURPS games going each year, running a one-shot game based on the hot-apocalypse topic at the time, and then running some sort of gladiator game as well.  Eventually GURPS-Imperial Rome came out, so I could conceivably run a game with actual gladiators of yore!

Tim, of Tim's Miniature Wargaming Blog goes through the same feasts and famines of gaming as everyone else, but he does put time aside for his birthday weekend.  Usually it's just a bunch of buddies using tournament rules and playing in an all-day campaign, but it gives him something to focus on (and a direction for his prodigious painting) when gaming opportunies have dried up.

I understand that some traditions wax and wane, others disappear, and others need to adapt with the times.  I really thought my Labor Day Picnic Risus IOU game would go on forever, but it looks as if we've missed two years now.   Hell, I'm trying to get the Cthulhu group together for the holidays (false, other people are inquiring, I'm trying to scramble with my family's social calendar) and if that goes off I need to play catch-up with Masks and something fun and not-necessarily holiday oriented.

Maybe SATLOF with the Burning Trogs? 
IOU at another function?
Bunnies and Burrows at Easter?
Gladiator combat using TWERPS?

Suggestions are appreciated.

RPGaDay #10 Favorite Tie-in Novel/Game Fiction

Game fiction.  The bane for those were perfectly happy running a campaign using the base information, only to have some author's ego upset the balance of power for future supplements

I never got into the Dragonlance books, Forgotten Realms was a joke and let's not get into the "official" fiction lines for games such as Vampire.  The only fiction line I regret not reading is the Battletech line, and only if I had played more of not only the game, but the Mechwarrior RPG. 

Even as a Talislanta fan, the Tales of Talislanta fiction collection published by WotC was nothing more than an afternoon of amusement.

Which leaves me with only one choice, very similar to Day 1 of this:

I have a tough enough time reading books I want to read on the subjects I know I love, much less someone else's fiction based on a campaign world that I already have a specific world-view.  At least a sourcebook on the matter is a bit more matter-of-fact, even if I don't like the direction the book goes.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

RPGaDay #9 Favorite Die/Dice Set

Horrible secret unveiled:  I don't have the attachment to dice that other gamers do.  Sure, I have a cigar box overflowing with dice, and that doesn't include random dice I find between couch cushions, or the "official game" dice that I store in my miniatures totes for convention games I run.   But outside of a set of jungle camo dice that i picked up right when Chessex started the flecked style, and a 100 sided Zodechahedron, I have little attachment to dice.

Except for my DBA dice.

I've mentioned Lehicon IV before, the greatest EVER!   Nostalgia skews my memories, but from the moment I started organizing cons, Lehicon was the gold standard for scheduling a diverse selection of games that brought in gamers.

Another huge appeal of the con was the Dealer's Hall, of which a third to half of it seemed to be dominated by Crazy Egor's.   I don't remember what I snagged at the con with the exceptions of a copy of Battlelords of the 23rd Century and two loose six-sided dice.

I have purchased additional dice like them over the last twenty years, so I don't know if those are really the original dice.  But they do represent the greatest effort of futility in my gaming lifetime.

I grabbed "fresh" dice for the De Bellis Antiquitatis (DBA) Beginners tournament.  DBA is a very basic set of rules covering ancient and medieval eras and is used in tournaments throughout the world.

During the four hour timeslot, we would learn the basic rules and then play the other nine players in a quick tournament on the multiple battlefields provided. 

It was quick, it was nasty, and my dice failed me.  Every. Single. Time. 

I ultimately went 0-9 in the tournament, despite having superior tactics on my side for a number of the battles. 

These dice have always stayed in my collection, and I can only assume the bad karma has brushed off of them, or they've absorbed some of the good karma from my other dice. 

But if I've learned anything from that encounter, it's this:  Never use virgin dice in a tournament setting.   I've never done it since.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Once More a Foray Into the Magic

Finally!   Annual Enrollment for work is complete!  After full shifts Saturday and Sunday, I'm officially done with the busy season (although I'm on day 8 of a 12 straight workdays).

As I escaped work yesterday, I dodged a complimentary round of drinks with the boss, told my wife I would be spending obligatory time at the bar with the boss, and ventured over to Emerald Vale for their booster draft.  I'd rather spend twelve bucks to play a game than drink overpriced beer, and with my pulls from the last time I did it, it might pay for itself.

With ten players and two tables of drafting set up we rip open the packs and began. 

Midway through the second pack I had a nice little collection of green and black cards, but then I decided for a little splash of blue.   Between all the special lands and the banners in Khans still available in the rotation I was able to that and keep the card count around 51.  A bit large for draft, but I was willing to experiment... at least for the first game.

That first match was a complete and utter disaster, as I got hosed in two quick games.  The reason, I put in the wrong mana ratios for my swamps and islands, most noticably, I only put in two swamps.   

I corrected my swamps issue and pulled all hints of blue

Second match was against the acting judge, and he was proper Magic ass, and I mean that in a compliment.  Judges should be a bit anal, but also know someone else is being a buffoon.  We traded some pretty decent blows first before he won, I pounded him into submission game two, and he steamrolled me in the final round.  The deck was working.

The third match was against the punk-ass kid Magic player who knows everything yet needs to touch lands, double check his enchantments, and shuffle through his cards at breakneck speed looking for that one thing than will put him over the edge. 

He was mana-screwed game one, we both were game two, as whoever drew their fifth land sealed the victory.  Game three was my triumph of the night.   We traded blows with creatures until he dumped a pile of creatures on his side, I managed to play a Death Frenzy (All Creatures get -2/-2 until end of turn. When a creatures dies this turn, you gain 1 life.) which wiped the board except for my lone 3/3 and his 5/5 monstrosity with first strike capability and gave my life a cushion.  Next round we traded attacks and I threw out a morph creature, and after the next round I blocked his 5/5 with mine and could pay his morph cost to reveal a

Gotta love Elephant Warriors, especially common ones. 

The dude was one mana short to pump up his 5/5 AND give him first strike, so began an eternity of mana checking, graveyard delving, and hand rotation that usually screams futility.  He finally accepted the trade-off and a turn later he was dead. 

Sure, 3-5 for a tournment isn't great, but after major snafus at the start and some hefty competition at the back end, I'll take it and run.  I also snagged some pretty interesting cards as the packs wandered around.

*Narset, Enlightened Master
*Butcher of the Horde
*Kheru Lich Lord
*Sultai Ascendancy
*Sultai Soothsayer (1 foil/1 regular)

1x Alpine Bear
2x Awaken the Bear
1x Hardened Scales (Kept me competetive in three games)
1x Highland Game
1x Kin-Tree Warden
3x Longshot Squad
1x Scout the Borders

1x Tusked Colossodon
1x Tuskguard Captain
1x Woolly Loxodon

1x Disowned Ancestor
1x Kheru Bloodsucker
1x Kheru Deathmaw
1x Krumar Bond-Kin
1x Mardu Skullhunter
1x Sidisi's Pet

1x Death Frenzy

2x Abzan Banner
1x Cranial Archive (Woo! A Feldon's Cane for whatever they call Type II? Yee-Haw!)
2x Lens of Clarity (1 foil)
1x Sultai Banner
1x Witness of the Ages

I also discovered the Tiny Leaders format and it seems to have interest at the store.  A LOT of my Kamigawa rares are Legends with a casting cost of three (or less). 

RPGaDay #8 Favorite Character

Favorite Character?  Should be easy for the average player, but this fella has GM'ed RPGs far more than as a player. 

It also bugged me that I kept getting a sense of deja vu everytime I looked at this date.  A quick search revealed that I had done this very topic (by request) during my 12 Days of Blogging in 2012. 

My opinions haven't changed much, and I haven't had attachments to many characters since then, so, with only minor adjustments, here a rehash of that post:
But what characters would I choose?

Pastuphan: My GURPS Humanx alien raccoon who could barely make it through the first adventure (based off a Chip 'n Dale Rescue Ranger episode I might add) to fighting off swarms of Verm in the final adventure.  I liked him far better before he became a cybernetically enhanced killing machine to enable the final scenario.

Prego of Lyon: a mutant human with lion like features (and photosynthetic skin) in Gamma World 4th edition. How our group got through Famine in Far-go I'd beyond me.

Valerius and Yuri the Healing Guy from a Basic D&D game. They both got to fifth level!

E.B. Borgstrom and Banjo Joe, my two Call of Cthulhu characters who survived, and didn't do much, mind you.  I think Marvel Drybread, from the recent Delta Green playtest, had long-term (for DG) viability, but that made the traditional DG game look like an episode of My Little Pony.

Cephas: My stock AD&D Elf Bowman who has had many a Christmas adventure, when we're not running Toon reject elves?

Believe it or not, unless I take a stretch and start including my Rifts Cyber-Knight, a Werewolf from a one-shot World of Darkness session, a Star Trek: Next Gen dude, a radio operator from Recon, or numerous forgetable super hero one shots, there's not much else to work with. And I can't begin to include convention PCs, like William of Arinka and Marino Hernandez, Star Wars tramp freighter captain. I primarily GM, and have been doing so for nearly 25 years.

That being said, here's my top 3

#3 - Gary the Flying Guy: Gary was my character given to me for my very first game of TWERPS (The World's Easiest Role Playing Game.) He was the helicopter pilot during a zombie apocalypse (It was '94, we were always ahead of the curve). His strength was 4 and he got +1 to all piloting rolls. That's it. It was such a revelation to play such a basic and simple character. Plus it involved more quick thinking than die rolls for the group to survive. I don't remember if the Kermitnator made an appearance (Yes, the Kermitnator, a cyborg amphibian from the future), but such a rules light approach stuck with me ever since.

#2 - Sabeth Joachim: Outside of GMing RPGA stores, I rarely got a chance to be a playing for a in-store session. That whole running a business, dealing with customer, etc. just got in the way. The one time I did was a 2nd Edition AD&D run by Mike Dalcin. Like most harried store campaigns, it was an eclectic mixture of newbies, junior high munchkins, and slackers with nothing better to do on a Thursday night. Of course, this means that my character was thrust into a leadership role, barking order, soothing egos, and trying not to get slaughtered before we left the town on the first quest. Sabeth was probably the most "average" character stat-wise, a simple fighter in a crowd of handbooks, kit, and sub-classes. The difference with her was with my years of tactical GM experience, I took 1% of that and kept her out of trouble. I also realized that the regular attendees had two issues: 1. They were more ravenous with magic items "they could use" than a regular group and 2. We had no thief. Sabeth solved both issues herself. Despite being one of the more dominant (and surprisingly effective) characters, she would defer magic items like armor and weapons to appease the others. She faired quite well enough with studded leather, a minor dex bonus, and penchant for avoiding combat. However, she did take an extra share at the bottom, which meant all-class scrolls, miscellaneous potions, and a ring of invisibility fell into her lap. She became the party pseudo theif/scout and somehow did not die, despite all the traps, pits, and poisoned needles thrown at us.

#1 - The Naked Roast Nazi: First, a shout out to Todd in Pen Argyl, PA! Second, yes, you read the name right. Todd was a regular miniatures customer at Griffon Game. I think he may have been the main person responsible for the expansion of the Reaper line. With the store closing, we struck up a conversation and I was invited into his home game. It was a big honor, as I believe he had been playing with the same crew for somewhere around a decade and had just finished up a five year weekly campaign. With a hybrid 1st/2nd Edition game with cherry picked parts of all the fantasy heartbreakers thrown in for good measure, I figured I'd start with a concept character, and if he died, I'd go more in depth into the system with the next one. With DM approval, I went with a Halfling Wizard with some cooking non-weapon proficiencies. Todd's response? "Hey, why not?"

The campaign was definitely sandbox, mid-risk, low sandbox to be exact. We wandered around the wilderness, following rumors of treasure. My little wizard (his name lost in the epochs of time) found little use with a sling, a dagger, and a staff that usually doubled as the spit for whatever we were killed for food. It wasn't much, but life was good.

At some point, we had killed a bear, or boar, and had set up the spit to roast it. We had set camp at the edge of a lake and he rest of the party wandered off to see what they could see, gather herbs, etc, leaving me with the food... and the laundry. When the roast was done I stripped down to nothing and bathed myself and our spare clothes at the same time.

The absolute perfect time for three goblins to smell our food and wander into camp.

Waist deep in the water (and still naked) I ran out to grab the only nearby weapon... my staff/spit. Trying to scare them off, I screamed for help and swung the roast beast meancingly.

And rolled a nat 20.

One goblin out for the count, I shimmied the food off my weapon and went after goblin #2. Hit. Dead.

As the party began to return, they saw the halfling, naughty bits exposed, beating the third goblin with what was a moment previous, a cooking implement.

The halfling's name wasn't used from then on out, just Naked Roast Nazi. In this world we assumed it meant "Brave Halfling Warrior" rather than nude fascist chef.

Almost as funny, until the time that work got the best of me and I had to drop out, the halfling could only hit if he was in some state of disrobement. Fully geared up, he couldn't hit a lake if he was droppred into the center of it.

...and that's all I'm going to say about that.

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Call of Cthulhu 7th Edition Review

Sorry, not one from me, but one from that confirms some fears, allays some others, and ensures that my games can still remain 6th.

RPGaDay #7 Most "Intellectual" RPG Owned

Unlike the  mass of bespectacled geeks running amok in local interest new articles, I've never considered role playing games to be particularly intellectual.  The video game play concept was not forged from the 3rd Edition D&D playtests. Many many intelligent people were playing a simple game with simple mechanics.

While GURPS is long relegated to the role of game of choice for engineers, it is a consistent rules engine.

But like GURPS, D&D has the same problems, simply with a wide variety of archaic systems, which may require a  greater intellectual handle on the subject to matter.

I'm not running games that would focus on the "philosophical."

Vampire?  What I read of Vampire 2nd Edition and the Player's Guide, and what I saw on tabletops and at LARPS for a decade appeared to be something wholly different altogether.   Existential angst and deep-rooted political games usually turned into Prison Gang: The RPG.

Despite GURPS, Hackmaster, and even The End sitting on my shelf, the most intellectual RPG I own is probably Risus.

Yes, I'm dead serious.

For while there is no wrong way to play Risus, it's very easy for a GM to take a moment to pause and realize the game is being played wrong.   And that may or may not be okay.

It's one the simplest games out there, but my GMing style takes a good deal of effort to give free reign to your players, yet, know when to tug on the invisibile rope that you need to hold them back from making things go completely out of control. 

And as a player, it takes considerable skill and cunning to run a Bavarian Ninja Hairdresser Serving Wench and know when to take advantage of Talkative Hairdresser (1) in a game of Oni Oktoberfest.

Most RPGs devolve into charts, lists, and spreadsheets.  I hope Risus never advances beyond an index card full of cliches, essential equipment, and a few pieces of backstory that they've picked up during the game, such as Fear of 8-bit Video Games and Enemy: Snake Gandhi.  Anything more would confine the imagination, and good Lord, do they need it my IOU game.

Saturday, December 6, 2014

RPGaDay #6 Favorite RPG Never Get To Play

Let's be honest here, it hasn't been the Golden of Age of Gaming (aka High School) for twenty-plus years.  I'm lucky if I can pull a half dozen sessions of any RPG, so this beggar can not be too choosy.

Of course the title "Favorite RPG Never Get to Play" is just vague enough that I'm going to leave two answers with different criteria. 

If I got the chance to play the RPG of my choosing, we'd be playing Talislanta

Funny thing is I have a complete set of pre-d20 Tal books, and the last time I played in the world was before d20's creation.   Tal was a happy interruption using the converted D&D characters from my college game while we were on Summer break.  It was a short but epic quest to find a way back to their world. 
The thing with Talislanta is that I would have to run the session, regardless of edition.  If I wanted to be a player, I would be demanding Battlelords of the 23rd Century
I'm due for a single session to keep me going for another decade.  It's that middle ground between Legions of Steel and Rifts, with a healthy dose of number crunching and player vs BM (BattleMaster) conflict that would be a welcome alternative to anything current.