Garycon 2017! twas good.

This is a unique little Con as it harks back to the era where Wisconsin was ground zero for all D&D stuff, with THE DUNGEON shop (basically the D&D store with the TSR office upstairs), the qtip factory, etc. all around Lake Geneva, where some of these TSR guys still live and still show up to Cons!

So if you do not know, Garycon is a small con at a very cool location, the Grand Geneva Hotel, at it’s worst point in the turn of seasons (end of March) when the snow is gone and the warm weather (even for hiking) isn’t around yet.  40’s and rain is what we got again this year, unlike Game Hole Con which was absolutely gorgeous out all weekend in November!  I think that Game Hole and Garycon bookend each other quite nicely at their times of the year though, where, typically, you ain’t going outside for summer or winter sports at all up here.

This is an OSR con, which means Dungeon Crawl Classics, Swords and Wizardry, Lamentations of the Flame Princess, Into the Odd, Trampier art, Castles and Crusades and a lot of old dudes.  One of the guys I was with mentioned that the demographic was, for the most part, 20 year-olds and younger, and late 30’s and older with the entire millennial generation not even there.

That said, while all about OSR, DCC dominates this con as far as I can tell. They have a huge booth in the small exhibitor hall and while there were tons of people playing 5E, there were also many DCC tables everywhere.  I think one of the reasons DCC does so well here is that a lot of the old Wisconsin/Northern Illinois TSR designers are involved with Goodman games (and now even WOTC with their partnership announcement this weekend on the old school modules).  Goodman does judges guild reprints AND their own Californicated OD&D DCC stuff, they do a rebirth of Metamorphosis Alpha AND their own Mutant Crawl Classics.  So they are pushing ahead with their own games while at the same time not only bringing back some of the oldies, but adding new content from the original authors.  This makes the OS (without the R part because they likely never stopped themselves) happy.

We got to play DCC twice with Daniel Bishop as the Judge. For our first game our gang of freaks was nearly half the players there, which was totally awesome.  I had run a funnel and read modules, but never played the ‘leveled’ version of the game before and I am quite impressed with the rules in play.   I played a warrior, Sensless played a magic user with all BUFF spells and Maat played the only thief,  bowers another Wizard.  The game is dominated by the magic users for the most part (which is very anti-vancian/gygax), but they destroy themselves to pull off what they do and still have to rely on the dice–nothing is every certain no matter what you spellburn.  What it comes down to is trying to maximize chances of a certain spell result using spellburn, corruption, the halfling luck power and personal luck. How it works out in play is basically full on gonzo, where the GM can lay heavy stuff on the players and they can come back from the brink with clever luck/burn/corruption usage — but it’s very costly.  In a CON game Wizards are not going to hold back on the burning for results, so shit will get crazy.

Fighters are awesome however.  They take a beating as expected, but instead of flat bonuses, they get a DEED die with which they can declare a heroic deed, like pushing someone to the ground or dry gultching them if the die comes up 3+.  This allows a lot of creative play for what is normally, even in 13th Age, a bit of a boring class outside of Runequest/Mythras.

My second game I coached my kid through and it was great with a very strange premise in a deathtrap dungeon, which he had never experienced before.  I talked to him after about how the horrifyingly deadly traps were telegraphed by the description of the area, and the non-telegraphed ones were fairly easy to get out of.  Unlike the funnel games, leveled characters in DCC are difficult to kill off as long as the rest of the party is around– but his party had nearly all the spellcasters drop to zero at least once and I would have loved to see some of their character sheets to see how bad their stats were with all the spellburn and voluntary corruption!

Other stuff I saw and did:

  • Played A Study in Emerald three times and it was great each time, even though we got a few of the rules wrong. I also busted out Moongha Invaders, another Wallace classic.
  • Col. Zocchi was there with his dice and stories.  Picked up a D100 and a full 12 die set.  I need them for the funky DCC dice, but these will quickly replace all my other dice, which I will probably donate to the school library or work.
  • We played Alpha Blue with Venger Satanis.  One thing out of playing this I noticed is that when PC’s are presented with the desire for sex from female/male/alien NPC’s, they are ALWAYS paranoid about it being some sort of duplicity. This happened in Alpha Blue and in Scenic Dunnsmouth a couple weeks back.  Even when everything checks out the players are still totally thinking it’s a trap for sure… why are we conditioned this way??  Think about it, you come out of a dungeon with a ton of gold and hit the local inn, the brothel wenches will want you to buy them drinks and other stuff to maybe get them the hell out of there on a gold sedan chair, BUT likely want to actually fuck adventurers and of COURSE any male NPC in the same situation will want to put it to even the brawniest of females when she has gold jangling in all her pockets!
  • Marvel Heroic – there was a table next to us today that was playing, cool to see.  That’s a fun superhero game.
  • Tom Wham – we bugged him about getting some of his games print on demand or kickstarted! I missed the Search for the Emperor’s treasure game though sadly.
  • Grand Geneva knows how to make a fucking good Brandy old fashion!
  • There’s a small space between the city sprawl from Milwaukee and Lake Geneva that used to be a BIG space.  Driving through these areas that will soon be mc-mansion farms as far as the eye can see was sad.
  • I grew up near Saylesville, which isn’t even a village or township any more, being wholly swallowed by Waukesha, with only the name of the millpond to show it was ever there at this point.  To the south of us was a big farm owned by a Gygax, which we heard was a cousin of Gary Gygax.  Everyone in our area pronounced it GEE- GAX and not Gu-I-Gax.  One of the Gygax grandchildren walked around and talked to con-goers and I asked how his name was pronounced and he said the Gu-I-Gax version, so there you have it. My mom will never be convinced to say it that way though.
  • CON food.  I had terrible issues with something I ate or drank, same as a couple years back at Game Hole con.  I don’t have a sensitive stomach normally at all, but fucksake, there was something going on there.
  • Man– Wisconsin– you have to get some exercise!

Garycon this weekend

It’s been a fucklong time since I posted stuff.  Was in Colorado, played Lamentations for about a week (will post about that later), then we had 13th Age and got in as a player in an ACKs game as well.

But this weekend is OSR madness with Garycon.  I’m looking forward to playing some DCC and lugging my huge book around, looking forward to my kid meeting the makers of DCC and having a go at the strongest judge contest (with the enormous judges guild book). Pic unrelated.

Dungeon Crawl Classics – Kid Funnel

After a painful wait, I got a massive amount of Dungeon Crawl Classics stuff after backing the “4th Printing” of the game  The book is huge, it has two cloth bookmarks! It has astounding art everywhere.  Even if you never play, the book is definitely worth having.

I planned to send out a big email to a bunch of friends and get a funnel game going, but instead I just did it with the kids, or that was the intention anyway.  The DCC funnel is a mass of 0 level characters way over their heads in an adventure where nearly all are summarily destroyed, leaving a mere few left to graduate to leveled play.

Instead of a bunch of kids that were all over, it ended up being my brother, the wife, my son and the mom of my daughter’s BFF.  Why?  Character creation. When you play with kids, you need to get to the action right away (or to the choices they can make anyway).  While it takes just a little bit to make a 0 level DCC character, it takes a long time to make four, and with 6-10 year-olds, and parents, and lots of noise it’s even longer.  Once the characters were made, just before getting stuck in, two of the girls slinked off to go play other things in the furthest room from the one we were playing in.  Still we played on!

We had 16 characters for this adventure, most of which are totally unimportant because they died, but there were a few notables.  First Chuck Schick, a halfling-mariner named after a character in Caddyshack, had a theme song written, performed and auto-tuned about him by the end of the night.  It was slightly sad when he was nearly instantly killed, but in retrospect, hilarious.   My son had a character with ridiculous stats, including one 18.  He died.  Last of note was Britta the needlessly defiant, and I’ll talk about what happened to her below.

I ran the very interesting funnel module: Prince Charming: Reanimator.   Not an official DCC module, but quite good nonetheless.  The characters were gathered by Prince Charming and his Baliff to head into a ruined castle where Sleeping Beauty was supposedly located.  Why didn’t the Prince go himself?  Oh yeah, the castle is either haunted or really dangerous, so the peasants are tasked to go in first.  Lovely.

The characters wandered around and found an area where they got some buffs (all except Britta the needlessly defiant who defiantly wandered off on her own and was killed and eaten).  Then, the characters, nearly by accident managed to  B-line it to the “final boss” skipping 70% of the adventure and then… nearly all died.

Frankly I could run the adventure again based on the volume of content that they missed.  After the final battle and denouement, only three of the sixteen characters were left and only because they chose to run away at a specific point in the story (after the climax).

The funnel was good fun, with characters dropping like flies at the end.  The DCC rules are fairly simple, having less complexity for 0 level characters than LotFP or LL.  The book is gigantic for leveled play due to the random charts, but for 0-level, the rules could probably fit on about 6 pages.  The method for getting XP is a bit odd as it’s about surviving encounters, not succeeding at anything.  This could lead to some formulaic: encounter, run, encounter, run scenarios, yet running full tilt away from something in this adventure will lead to a quick death.

Other advice about DCC:  Even though I’ve seen claimed otherwise around the internets, If you are going to play DCC, you must have funky dice, even for the 0-level funnel.  The tables to build characters use the D30, D14 and a D24.  These are not too hard to acquire, but someone needs to have them or you’re looking online for a roller or … drawing fucking CHITS like we used have to as kids when TSR ran out of dice for Holmes Basic.

Don’t worry about the characters dying.  This is a big one for GM’s new to the DCC system.  You can easily get a TPK if the players are stupid with all of their characters, but chances are they are going to be smart with at least one of them.  If they all die, just roll up new ones and go in again with the added bonus of the new characters finding the old ones dead on the ground.

Pocketmod character sheet for Lamentations of the Flame Princess

I put together a Lamentations of the Flame Princess pocketmod character sheet based on the Dyson Logos pocketmod for B/X D&D (and with strong influences from the Badmedo character sheet for LotFP).

You can download it here.

Encumbrance and skills

I built this out mostly because I wanted pocketmod character sheets to play with my kids and the Dyson Logos sheet (while awesome for LL and B/X) just wasn’t quite cutting it with the LotFP rules.  LotFP has no THACO, and has very unique rules for skills and encumbrance. So, this one has the pages and info needed for LotFP AND it has what most modern character sheets are sorely missing: a space to draw a character picture.

I realize that the encumbrance item page is after the ‘encumbrance level’ page, this may seem out of order to derive encumbrance, but it is more important for the encumbrance rank to be found earlier in the booklet during play.

Original Build

After reviewing online pocket mods that weren’t Dyson Logos B/X one for ideas and finding that the rest were totally function over form (especially the soul-less 5E one), I did the first layout in, gulp, MS WORD.  I don’t have indesign or photoshop handy any more, and just ended up starting in Word to see if I could do it. To give it credit, Word has gotten a lot better in the last few versions to do fairly simple layouts like this and it looks like the original lotfp sheet was built using it.  The shape tool helped a lot, as well as tons of text boxes everywhere.

After layout was done in Word, I saved as a PDF and then used the pocketmod creator to parse the 8-page PDF into a pocket mod.  If you notice, the Dyson Logos B/X sheet was laid out by hand on the pocketmod format that he himself built, doing it his way means margins are more controlled than the ones parsed out by the pocketmod program.  After many tries, I couldn’t fix the fact that the pocketmod parsing program skewed the whole layout unbearably going from a PDF to a the pocketmod format.  If you are making a pocket mod with your notes from school, the pocketmod program is great, if you are actually trying to control exact placement and margins, it’s not worth bothering with.

Second Build

I have some of friends that are pro designers and one of them (Jenica!) generously said the equivalent of —fuck let me do that shit for you– after seeing what I was doing in Word, and so she did.  The result is FAR better than my MS Word original.  I recommend this approach, but the exercise of doing it first in Word helped me really see where everything would be  on each of the new pages and whether I could fit all the things. That prototype helped the designer’s job to do the real deal.

A guy named Whidou Whadou hooked me up with a vector-based dead sign for the spell page.

Anyway, enjoy!  Now who’s going to do one for MYTHRAS?

littlemute

Frostgrave thoughts

I got to play a 3-player Frostgrave game over the holiday and it was pretty good.  It’s a game ALL about your wizard and needs very few dice types (mostly a D20 is all you need).   Each player makes a warband that consists of a wizard, wizard apprentice and ‘soldiers’ which could be anything really.

Wizards have a spell school that is their primary school, and a secondary and teriary that they can draw spells from.  Each spell has a casting value (like WFB or Mordheim) and wizards have to hit that on a D20+level to case the spells.  If you ever play, remember this part and that you are LOW LEVEL wizard.  Take spell you can cast often, and don’t pick ones that have high casting numbers!

The play unfolds in initiative order but with phases for each type of character.  Wizards go first (all player’s wizards), then apprentices, then soldiers and finally monsters.  Once all four groups have gone, the turn is over.

Combat is simple and while similar to the Lord of the Rings Strategy Battle game which is a D6 roll off between fighters, with ties going to the higher fight value, Frostgrave uses a D20!  What’s more the fight bonus differences between different fighters is not very high.  Even in a fight where someone has a +2 over another fighter really is not too good– it’s essentially just a roll off between the fighters.

Once a hit is scored, if the original die roll is over the character’s armor value they take some damage in hit points, like D&D.   It’s a very swingy system and you can lose by lots even if you have superior fighters, which can be frustrating for some.

Overall the game is all about the spells and the magic.  Since it was our first play, we chose spells that were far too high level for our wizards, and suffered for it with not  a ton of spells hitting the table.

So after one play, I would put Frostgrave as better than Mordheim due to Mordheim’s bollocks combat system but it’s not as good as Necromunda.  It’s a tough call with Lord of the Rings but I think Frostgrave wins out because it has the campaign setting.

Overall the book is cheap and you can use whatever mini’s you have lying around.  The system is simple enough where you won’t have to totally start from scratch with the rules if there is a long time between plays.  Likely worth buying.

Cat. Heat. Fucked

Right after the sleep deprivation of the LAN I am going through some sleep deprivation problems due to suddenly having a cat in heat inside the house (better than outside where there is a risk of her getting fucked silly and spawning). This is one of those unique things in life that you remember FOREVER because it’s just so nuts. the last time this happened to me I was about 20 years old and in college with a new cat. Lucky for me and my gf at the time, the cat got outside a few of the nights so everyone could sleep a bit and did not get knocked up. Before that incident, it was common when I grew up for cats to be humping under the dining room table while we trying to eat breakfast cereals.

Just how loud it is is what amazes me and that it goes on and on and on and on and on. I’ve said this since I learned the word fuck as a child: FUCKING CATS!

THE LAN THE LAN THE LAN 2017

Last weekend was a LAN weekend. Man it’s been awhile, some suspect a decade or more. We did it up in the basement of scooter’s abode and it was gibbing madness. Some of these games I hadn’t played in a looooong time so here’s a run down of my feels here in 2017.

FPS
We played a mess of FPS games, originally thinking we would run the gauntlet of Doom all the way to new Doom.  We almost did, but there were games we skipped (and one we shoulda skipped!).

L4D2

Always a great time, but not great when you have more than four players as the monsters aren’t fun to play as. Interesting? Yes, but you end up looking at the respawn screen a lot more than if you are one of the survivors.

Vermintide

We gave this a try at the LAN and got pretty confused by the maps and environment.  This is one that is likely better not at a LAN and just in normal internet play.

The Bad Place

Quake

While unbalanced weapon-wise Quake is an amazing death match game STILL in 2017. We used the RUNE mod which has runes lying around that you can pick up that give you X2 damage, damage resistance, rapid fire (not my favorite) and regeneration. I would argue that Quake still has some of the best Death match maps ever made.

DOOM
We tried to get BRUTAL DOOM up and running and it desynched constantly. While we didn’t deathmatch this, it was fun for the hour or so we were able to actually play. Brutal DOOM is something to check out for sure.

Quake 3

The penultimate death-match FPS. While many have tried, nothing has come close to how good this game is for straight up death match. With the weapon balance that Quake lacks and some really awesome DM levels, I think we played this the most out of any of the FPS games over the weekend. It just shows that it’s not the graphics that make a good DM game at all.

Insurgency
I didn’t get on this, but people said it was a good time. We played this because we could not get Battlefield Bad Company 2 working for everyone, which was too bad.

this is the screen you LOVE to see in newDoom because it’s over and you can go on to any other FPS!

New DOOM

Playing Quake, Quake 3, UT3 and OG Doom just before trying newDoom showed how awful the death match for the New Doom really is. Great single player, amazing graphics still makes newDoom a fantastic game, but don’t bother at all with the death match. It feels like you are inside a robot suit slowly moving and turning around. It’s not even worth trying out to see how bad it is.

UT3
I got a single round of Vehicle CTF with maurice!Bastard and it was great. While UT3 is not a very good Death match game compared to nearly all other games (it’s still better than NewDoom), I’ve always found it’s Vehicle CTF to be absolutely superb. Totally insane vehicles, very fast movement speed across large maps and the whole bevy of weapons that UT brings to the table makes me wish I had the chance to play this more.

RTS

We played three RTS games and all three were enjoyed, though one for very different reasons for the other two.

Planetary Annihilation

This is on the cusp of being a good game, and certainly it’s fun for a bit.  However there is just so much going on and you are spread out over so many areas (planets and strategic layers) with your units and buildings that it makes it an unmanageable mess.  We got in a few games of this vs the bots and after winning easily on normal, we tried it on hard and it was comedy.   The bots ended up nuking our commanders on a planet we had total control over.   Overall, fun but the game devolves into ALL orbital combat after awhile.  There’s minutia and counters here, but it is all just a unit-flood steamroll of some sort in the end.

Warcraft 3

The best RTS had to get busted out.  We played coop again vs the bots and I forget that this has a very steep learning curve to it with the heroes and creeping and total disregard for the base-defense that other RTS games rely on.  I also forgot nearly everything I had known about the game and played terribly, but still, really fun game– especially the battles.

Total Annihilation

People begged to bust this out and..was a total joke.  We jumped into the game with 5 players and two of the commanders were D-cannon’ed within the first minute.  RTS games have come a long, long way.  While Starcraft, due to updates, stands the test of time with it’s controls and UI, Total Annihilation does not at all.  As compelling as it was in the 90’s it just is not any more.  Frankly if you want the TA feels, Supreme Commander is the way to go these days.

CRPG

We got in some Torchlight 2 both Hardcore Elite and non-Hardcore Veteran.  While the chance of permadeath is fun, the MASS hitpoints the enemies have in Elite multiplayer makes it slower than I really like in my TL2 madness.

So yes, we should do it again but bring some candles or votives or something for the rump gasping.  There’s only so much bad air a basement can hold before spontaneous human combustion sets in.

Pit People early access!

This weekend with gaming was all about PIT PEOPLE which went into early access Friday.    The game has all the craziness you will expect from Behemoth and it’s basically a turn based warband fighting game where you go around a strange post-apocalyptic map and fight things and complete quests.  It’s quite simple to play as in you don’t have to tell your guys who or what to attack, you simply move them around the battlefield and they do their thing if they are at the correct distance from an enemy.   We haven’t seen much yet, having just opened up the Pit itself for fighting, but though it seems simple at first, it’s looking like there is a lot to the game.

So far we have seen only three ‘classes’ of characters: cupcakes (healers), beefys (big dudes) and normal guys.  The normal guys can be made into either tanks, ranged or ‘big’ weapon fighters based on the equipment you give them.  You can also put helmets on your guys, which helps vs sharp weapons but not against clubs and stuff, there isn’t armor per-se, just shields (big and small) and helmets.   Characters can only carry so much stuff, hence you can’t give a guy a huge weapon and then a shield as well.

Items are ridiculous where one character will attack with a pool stick or axe and another with “just cheese.”  Shields seem to be crazy as well and I’ve seen license plates, bits of concrete, a canteen?? and I think a sandwich.  Graphically, everything is so dense that it will take awhile to pick up on all the references to the older games in the building and strange Behemoth Universe.

I’m not sure yet why you would do this, but you can capture a bunch of characters/monsters in the game.  Since so far at least we can only use five guys and they never die as long as you don’t get TPK’ed, it’s not like Fire Emblem where you collect guys and it’s a big deal when one of them bites the dust, especially if you don’t have someone to fit that role anymore. It may be just for the aesthetics, or possibly for different configurations of teams to go on certain missions (capture team, anti-flying team, etc.).  Since it says you can get 500 guys, it must be something big in the game.  We’ve just got the stock guys and one beefy so far.

This morning we unlocked the PIT, which is the spot where you can go in and fight in the arena vs various warbands of creatures.  Not sure how it works but you fight on! until all your guys are dead and then get a score of some kind.  It’s a way to unlock a bunch of weapons and aesthetic rather than out on the map, so cool.  I think the characters level up even if they get killed in the PIT as well, so it may be a good place to power level before hitting the quests.  I’m not sure what the leveling DOES though yet!

If you like Disgaea and FFT and Soul Nomad and the World Eaters type games, so far this is pretty great.