Garycon 2018

Always a fun, mellow con where you can get food and drink no problem, from where ever you are in the Hotel.  We showed up on Saturday only and hit the board game library and then commenced to playing DCC until my kids nearly fell asleep at the table.   This is one Convention where you can just basically show up and fairly easily get into games.

This con is getting … bigger.  We’ll have to see how long it remains at the Grand Geneva which itself is huge– I think it would not be as unique or fun if it moved.  Hopefully it stays a smallish/medium con in the next few years and doesn’t approach the monstrosity that Gencon has become.  However, if you want to experience what GENCON was like in the early years– Gary Con is definitely it.

The GM’s view running People of the PIT!

A Study in Emerald Sequel: AuZtralia!

A Study in Emerald has quickly become one of my favorite games.  It’s combination of solid deck building and treachery just warms my cockles!

After the events in A Study In Emerald, Northern Europe is in ashes and the peoples need to rebuild civilization in Australia with trains and stuff and of course, the remaining Old Ones waking up.   Auztralia also by Martin Wallace, looks great and will be good for a twofer Saturday of aSiE.  It’s not out yet but should be in 2018!

DIRGIBLES

The Golden Sword – A Guardian Heroes inspired adventure for 13th Age

We had a weekend-long 13th Age session this past weekend with randomly rotating GM’s and character level ups between each session.  I got to go first and had a bit of time to prep before the session.  Some of the GM’s did not know when they would be up, which is admirable. I wasn’t admirable.

I had a  WFRP-like plot set up and written into a pocketmod the week before, but then a bunch of kids were at the house and they were playing Guardian Heroes and I STOLE THE BEGINNING COMPLETELY for the first session …and would do it again.

I built the following adventure based closer to Feng Shui style than to any standard D20 dungeon crawl, which I think 13th Age fits perfectly.   The adventure consists of three fights with connective tissue in between (read as the INTENTION of railroading if not railroading during the session itself).

I used a trick to start the session off that I read in some 13th Age book or module somewhere, where a dark elf pays the characters for their memories… this is to cut down on all the “this is how I know X character” bullshit that bogs down the first sessions!

Dramatis Personae

Sauvanne the Red
Baron Arceneaux
Cantacuzene the Sorcerer
Rolfia of the blackguards
Zul the Advisor
Aarwon the inkeeper
Blavot Couvier, sergeant of the blackguards
Golden Swordsman

Battle 1 – Inn and Streets

The characters are sitting at a table at an inn (The Unicorn and Badger on Harlot’s Chase in the town of Mudfair are the names I used) and a beautiful dark elf is handing them a sack of silver and jewels and says she would like to pay them for their memories.  The characters will likely say stuff like “mine aren’t that interesting” or “it will cost you more than that,” but of course she means the memories that she has already purchased and in fact they can’t remember anything for the last few weeks except that they have an affinity for the other characters with no memory exactly of why.

She then snuffs a bit and looks around and say’s ‘oh it’s time to go’ and disappears into ash. The characters then smell smoke and have a chance to look around themselves.  They are on the second floor of an Inn and on the table along with the silver the dark elf just left them, is an open stack of gems and gold coins as well as a well-appointed golden sword.

[Characters stole a bunch of stuff including the golden sword from a nearby temple (Zeliel, God of Coins!) and are celebrating after delivering what they were requested to steal to their employers; the sword was INCIDENTALLY stolen.]

Suddenly, a woman in ornate crimson armor (Sauvanne) bursts into the inn and points to the sword and warns the characters that they are about to be attacked and ‘don’t let them get the sword!’ Guards start flowing in to the building and it is set on fire. Characters can run or fight but the building burns around them and becomes increasingly dangerous. The woman fights with the characters vs the guards and suggests a retreating withdrawal.  She will help to pick up any characters that drop to zero, but won’t stay long in the burning building because that would be stupid.

Four guards will scale the walls or come up the inn stairs into the second floor room each turn.

Archers will stay outside ready to shoot anyone they see that isn’t another guard.  They have pushed bales of burning hay to the sides of the Inn as well as setting fire to a few on the first floor.  Bolgar Mangstein and Chamas Mazor lead the group of guards tasked to get the sword.  The named characters will not engage until after escalation 3 and will go into the building until escalation 5 after which they will wait outside for the building to burn down or the characters to jump out.  The Sword is a big deal and all the named characters will take risks to get it, but these two won’t fight to the death.

Stats and Mechanics

After escalation 3, everyone in the inn takes 5 ongoing damage with no save.  After escalation 6+, everyone in the inn takes 10 ongoing damage and must save AFTER they leave the inn as well or continue to take damage.

There are 12 guards and 6 archers plus two named characters.   This would be an easy fight for first level characters, except for the burning building.

Town Archers Town Guard
Mook     Level 1     Archer Mook     Level 1     Troop
Initiative +5 Initiative +5
HP 5          AC 13      PD 10      MD 10 HP 7          AC 14      PD 13      MD 13
R: Crossboiws +9 v AC (1 enemy engaged ) – 4 Damage M: Short Swords +9 v AC (1 enemy engaged ) – 4  Damage
     Hit Natural 16+ – Reduce the escalation die by 1.
Bolgar Mangstein Chamas Mazor
 Level 3     Leader   Level 2     Caster
Initiative +5 Initiative +5
HP 45          AC 16      PD 12      MD 12 HP 25          AC 16      PD 14      MD 14
M: Huge Mace +9 v AC (1d2 enemies engaged), 8 Damage R: Spirit Blaster +10 v MD (1d3 unengaged enemies), 4 Damage
     Special: If escalation die is even, can repeat this attack one additional time      Hit Natural 16+ – Creature pops free and can move as a free action.
     Miss – Gain +2 bonus to next attack      Miss Odds – Gain +2 bonus to next attack

Connective Tissue 1

Allow a short rest when the characters escape from the Inn.  If they get captured, you’ll have to wing it from there.

Assuming the characters escape, the lady introduces herself (Sauvanne) and explains what they accidentally did by stealing the sword: set off a hunt based on a known prophecy about the local baron and the true power behind the barony: the sorcerer Cantacuzene involving the sword.

If they aren’t too hurt and the inn fight wasn’t too long, on the streets/ running away from the inn they can be confronted by more guards. Just a few should work fine here and if needed one of the surviving named characters from the first fight. This should be easily overcome.

They run (force this part) to the nearby grave yard which is ancient and larger than the village itself.  It has ancient barrows upon which gravestones and mausoleums have been built.  Sauvanne will suggest this as very few people frequent the graveyard…

I had many guard parties to be avoided in the town as well as knights riding winged mechanoid wasps searching through the town from the sky.

Battle 2 -Graveyard

While Sauvanne is convinced the graveyard is safe to hole up in for awhile, but the group is confronted by Rolfia, the head of the Black Order of the baron’s guard.  She calls Sauvanne a traitor and says that she is going to let them play with one of her toys first if they won’t hand over the sword to her.  The toy is a 12 foot tall mechanoid that cannot really be damaged by the characters. The characters fight around a large barrow.

The core thing here is that the mechanoid should only be superficially damaged from the character’s weapons and spells.  First level 13th Age characters can do some amazing shytte, and there are a lot of different classes to deal with (like the chaos mage) but you should be able to make it believable that the mechanoid isn’t really damaged, though they are doing damage to it.   The critical point is when someone tries to use the golden sword on the mechanoid, stuff happens.  As soon as the sword is swung, the barrow nearby bursts open and a warrior in golden armor (very dead looking) appears, and the sword throws it’s current wielder into the nearby grave stones (4 damage) and teleports to his hand. The golden warrior crushes the mechanoid immediately.  The head of the black order and her guards run away in fear as the dead rise from their graves around them (influenced by the presence of the golden warrior, but not controlled or any concern of his).

The characters are then attacked by the golden swordsman, but make sure they aren’t hit–if they tell him to STOP, he stops and they learn they can issue commands to him. Have Sauvanne do this and be attacked if you have a lot of damaged characters after the mechanoid battle.

Stats

Don’t bother statting the mechanoid except Init +5, Attack +5, Damage 15.  This won’t hit often but when it does– ouch.  It’s a story element (players won’t know this and that’s OK).  It will go for the sword and try to wrestle it away if possible.  If they attack Rolfia, see below.

Connecting tissue 2

Sauvanne can say “That sword… This golden warrior must have wielded it long ago. Legend has it that the sword possesses the power to wipe the darkness. I had no idea it would summon the golden warrior. The Baron has been desperately seeking this sword and now I know why they are afraid of it. This warrior has the power to end the Sorcerer Cantacuzene’s reign over the Barony, forever.”

I did not plan to involve all of you… But when the Baron Arceneaux discovered I was going to revolt, I did not think he would use so many troops.
I cannot fight this battle alone. Do not be fooled by Baron Arceneaux or his family. Whoever has the sword will be captured and executed! From now on, all of you will be targets as well. We must leave here immediately!

The dead start to rise out of their graves within a radius of the Golden Warrior.  Any that get close to him he destroys, but it is a constant threat until the characters leave the graveyard (for the final battle).

Sauvanne suggests they go to a nearby village (Crowyard) as it is friendly to the rebels against the Baron Arceneaux and the Sorcerer.  The characters may want to hide in a nearby woods or go kick some ass at the Baron’s keep.

Battle 3 – Baron’s Keep, Woods or Village (Crowyard).

They can raid the Baron’s keep, or go to a nearby village friendly to rebels against the Barony (the Arceneaux’s), or head to the woods to hide among the rebels there.  Whichever place they decide to go, the fight is the same, though you will need to make up the getting there part on your own and frame the fight.  My players went to the keep and snuck in.  The keep I used had an access tunnel beneath it for supplies and was otherwise unguarded.

Depending on what they do, they are likely attacked, or must fight through, more guards and the Baron’s adviser (Zul) who traps them with magic in an ‘arena’ with a giant summoned troll via three witches in mauve robes.

Stats

 

Blue Ogre thing Witches
Large     Level 3     Wrecker Normal     Level 1     Caster
Initiative +5 Initiative +5
HP 126          AC 16      PD 12      MD 12 HP 19          AC 18      PD 13      MD 13
M: Meaty Fist +10 v AC (1 enemy engaged with monster), 23 Pummelling Damage R: Lightning fork +6 v AC (1d3 nearby enemies), 3 Lightning damage
 Hit Evens – Target is weakened      Special: Witch can pop free from target. If engaged with any other enemies in addition to target, can immediately roll to disengage with +2 bonus.
     R: Floor Tile Toss +10 v PD (2d3 nearby or faraway enemies), 6 Crushing damage    Miss – Disengages from any engaged enemies
 Limited Use: Escalation die 3+       Natural 16+ – Ogre heals 5 HP
  Miss Natural -5 – Gain +2 bonus to next successful attack (can stack)

Zul, when captured, can give information as to where the Baron is or Cantacuzene the Sorcerer…Connective Tissue 3 really depends where the characters have this fight. If they are in the Crowyard village or in the woods, they should go to the keep to finish the job. If they are already at the keep, then the second wave of antagonists should show up after Zul’s ogre and witches are defeated.

Battle 4 – Confront the Sorcerer

This is a fight that has a pre-determined outcome.  The characters will attack either the Baron to get to the sorcerer or find the sorcerer.  They will fight minions and either the Baron, Zul or any of the named characters that survived the first fights.  The setting for this could be anywhere but inside the keep is probably best.

While the characters are fighting, the Sorcerer Cantacuzene shows up and the Golden Warrior gets super pissed off and those two battle, destroying each other, and the sword in the process.  In our session, the final battle was in the keep and it started to collapse–the characters ran away and the whole thing came down on top of the golden warrior and the sorcerer.  After the Sorcerer is destroyed, the other named characters will snap out of it and be sorry for what they’ve done as they were geased by the sorcerer…  FIN!

Stats

House Archers House Guards
Mook     Level 1     Archer Mook     Level 1     Troop
Initiative +5 Initiative +5
HP 5          AC 19      PD 15      MD 11 HP 5          AC 17      PD 15      MD 11
R: Arrow +6 v AC  – 4 Damage M: Short Sword +9 v AC (1 enemy engaged ) – 4 Flavor Damage
 Hit Evens – Choose one ally. The next non-critical hit against that ally this battle is a miss instead.
Zul Rolfia
Normal     Level 2     Caster Normal     Level 3     Leader
Initiative +5 Initiative +5
HP 36          AC 13      PD 11      MD 11 HP 63          AC 16      PD 14      MD 10
R: Magic Missiles +8 v MD (1d2 enemies engaged with monster), 5  Damage M: Big Mace+9 v AC (2 attacks), 6  Damage
Hit Fives – Target is confused      Hit Natural 18+ – Attack is a critical hit!
Miss Evens – Increase damage of next successful attack by 25%      Miss Fives – Gain +2 bonus to next attack
 Natural -5 – The target sees odd colors at the corners of its vision until it has taken a full heal-up (–2 penalty to skill checks to see things).      Natural 16+ – Target can’t use recoveries until its next turn.
C: Sonic Deluge +10 v MD (1d3 enemies in group), 4 Fire
 Hit Evens – The creature teleports the target next to one of its nearby allies that it can see, who engages it as a free action. It can’t teleport the target to a location that causes it direct damage (so can’t drop it into traps or lava).    Limited Use: When escalation die even Nastier Special – Blood Frenzy: Make a note of the escalation die when Rolfia becomes staggered. She gains a bonus to her melee attacks and damage equal to that escalation die value for the rest of the battle.

 

Baron Arceneaux
Normal     Level 2     Spoiler
Initiative +5
HP 25          AC 18      PD 14      MD 14
M: Heavy Axe +10 v AC (1 enemy engaged), 7 Damage
 Hit Odds – Attack is a critical hit!
     Miss Natural -5 – Gain +2 bonus to next attack

Obligatory Star Wars post

Because it’s 2018 and I did go see the Last Jedi the first night it came out, just like I have all the movies since Empire Strikes Back, I’m going to write a few paragraphs about it for posterity.  This is mostly I can look back at this post when we are hit with even WORSE cascades of space-piss than this one (the Han Solo movie for example).  There’s a ton on the internet about the film and more and more daily.  Mostly, it’s that this “Star Wars” film has a ruthless misanthropist message, but not in a Sword of Doom type of way, but in an angry, resentful sort of way– the sort of film that would come out after Trump beat a clearly more qualified female candidate for president of the united states.

The space battles looked great, but lacked much of the emotional intensity that Return of the Jedi or a New Hope had.  I get that the ‘bombers’ in the first scene couldn’t ‘drop’ their bombs and that was all stupid.  It was forgivable except that it was a harbinger for things to be stupid later. That said, the film was not as “war-y” as Rogue One, and that was sad.  Rogue One the conflict felt a lot more intense and real, where in the Last Jedi, it felt like a Star Wars animated series episode at times.

The final surprise attack by hyperdriving into the big ship pretty much made it so the Death Star could not have existed for long since the rebels could have constantly sent (unmanned) ships warping inside it.  Of course, the Imperials could have done the same thing to any of the planets that opposed them as well.  There needed to be some technical reason for that to be able to happen– like the means by which the ship was TRACKED in hyperspace (which they made a big deal about but never closed the loop on?!) allowed that ship and that ship alone to teleport inside the other ship. Nothing like this was presented of course and to me that’s a plot hole.

While it may have been inevitable, they handled the legacy characters poorly.  Luke was not portrayed in a way that made sense at all based on the original films.  Leia was force sensitive right? But all she did was save herself?  So Yoda’s statement of “there is another” meant nothing (and yet they will be making an entire movie about the kessel run in contrast).  I don’t care about the new characters EXCEPT in relation to the old.

To echo red letter media: what happened between Return of the Jedi and Force Awakens was that our beloved characters were made out to be miserable the entire time between films, and not just because of the Star Wars Xmas special (which I sat through over the Xmas break unbelievably).

Of the new characters that are worth talking about, Adam Driver was quite good, and frankly his character is the only one I care about at all in these new films on his own.  His scene where he asks the Mary Sue to give up on all the cyclical destruction was the only poignant scene.  Finn was underutilized and pretty much comic relief, though what he ended up doing in the film was not funny at all.

So I’ve used the term a few times already, but certainly, Rei will go down in history as the poster child Mary Sue forever.  In fact, the term Mary Sue may become Rei (like, “rewrite that chapter man, that character is a REI”) or even “Daisy”.  I REALLY thought she would die in this film or get messed up on the level of Luke in the Empire Strikes Back.  The scene where she goes into that hole in the island and just saw herself infinitely in every direction was when the film hit rock bottom for me.  That was the spot for a Lynchian or Tarkovsky-esque coming of age TRIPOUT scene.  Instead, it was fucking meaningless pysse.

My own thoughts on the film is that it essentially projects a message of nihilism: people are ground to dust in a cyclical, unending conflict based on the misery of dualism which reflects in all ways that this is the beginning of unending films based on the same conflict grinding to dust infinite dollars spent by fans, and this fact was obviously felt excruciatingly by the writer.

Based on this film, there is no hope or happiness for people that are force sensitive AND trained in the ways of the force in Disney’s version of Star Wars.  Just the crushing knowledge that with the power comes unending misery, conflict and death. For a film about a pure warrior caste like 13 Assassins, great.  For an order of enlightened space monks?   uhhh?  The capitalistic focus and the misanthropic messages, with no overall controlling story arc for what’s going to happen, would drive any writer to a nihilistic state, and that certainly came out in the film.

Favorite RPG module of 2017

I didn’t run a lot of modules this year or pre published adventures but my favorite that I did run was a zero level funnel for DCC called FT0: PRINCE CHARMING, REANIMATOR.

I ran this with a mixed group of kids and adults and they all loved it.  Some of the then drunk adults even composed and recorded a song: Chuck Schick and the Shield of Truth, even though I think the shield is actually a sword.

The adventure revolves around Prince Charming (who is an asshole) acquiring another bride of a certain type, that is– a beautiful girl who has recently died that he then brings back to life with his reanimator serum.  Since this is a funnel, the horde of PC’s are tasked with bringing the bride back to the prince from the very dangerous castle that she sleeps in.  Things go horribly wrong, as they are supposed to in any funnel game, and only a few characters made it out alive.  My son made the mistake (in his opinion) of making one of his 4 pack of characters a female and naturally that was the character that survived to first level.  While he continues to complain, he is playing in the follow up Adventure, F1: Creeping Beauties of the Wood.

A great little adventure, with kids or not.

iOS games of 2017: one sentence reviews

I installed and played a lot of ios games in 2017 since I ride the bus an hour and back for work. Most were awful or were good games that just sucked on the iphone form factor.  I’ve got a huge and awkward V6+ which is nearly a mini ipad– but not nearly big enough for many of these games. Here’s what I suffered from so you don’t have to.   

Dungeon Warfare
Solid tower defense that works very well on the phone, worth the purchase.

Mordheim
This was interesting for a short time, but became so samey as to not be worth bothering with due to samey maps and missions.

A Planet of Mine
I got stuck twice early game with no way to create mines to mine the thing I needed to make mines, which was not fun.

Really Bad Chess
It’s chess with random pieces so theory has no place at all in the game, which I appreciate, but it’s still just chess.

Hero Generations Regen
This is a simplistic roguelike where your heroes get old, have babies and the babies grow up to go fight monsters, thought it was cool for about a day and then got very bored.

Vempire Kings of Darkness
Deckbuilder with vampires, this actually may end up being a game I play more of, but it just made me want to go play Ascension more.

Neoscavenger
This seems like a GREAT game, but it’s absolutely terrible on any size phone.

Iron Marines
This is good and works surprisingly well on the phone but, you will need to get your fucking face real close to the screen to play.

Out There
Sort of interesting, but it’s FTL basically and works well on the phone.

Lost Portal
I’m not dying to get to play a MTG clone, and Ascension is just better.

 

RPG – my favorite books of 2017

Here’s my list of my favorite RPG books of 2017.  Not all of these came out in 2017 though!  These are books that have been at my bedside table or working desk most of the year.

How to Write Adventures that Don’t Suck

This is a great book of essays on adventure design from a lot of the greats, with short adventures to go along with each essay.  Fantastic stuff!  All GM’s should have this one.

FASERIP

This is an OGL redux of the Marvel Heroes RPG from TSR that had a LOT of expansions and material that my brother and I basically ignored after getting and playing the yellow box set a few times.  We were CHAMPIONS kids and that meant pointbuild and brokenness and combat that took forever.  Frankly I wish we had looked at TSR’s superhero game at the time a bit more OR they had the common sense to realize that kids wanted to make their own characters!  Faserip has character creation (which I would dub semi random).  Also, this shit is FREE.

We got to play FASERIP once this year (thanks to Lordlobo) and I intend to run it soon.

Veins of the Earth

This is great shit-reading.  Probably one of the best shit-reading books to come out in long time.  While the campaign itself is nothing compared to World of the Lost or Better than Any Man (it’s more of a gazetter), it has oodles of weirdness and unique ideas for your OSR, D&D5e or even 13th Age campaign.  While not a fan of the author’s writing generally (“get to the fucking point man!” is the constant comment running through my head) this is worth suffering through the rough spots.  After purchasing the lackluster Deep Carbon Observatory, I thought this guy needed an editor and he got one when publishing Veins: it really helped.  Hopefully he can tighten up his tendency to overwrite and wordiness even further for the next thing he does because the bones of it this are fantastic.  Art is great.

Silent Legions

This is older but I just picked it up this year.  It is likely an essential book in any GM’s library (like Dungeon Dozens!).   Why?  This has one of the best world building generators I’ve come across for both modern and fantasy stuff.  Not only that, it has a unique adventure builder that, while set up to work in the Early Modern to modern settings, could be used in any Fantasy Universe as well.  And this fucking guy really can write!

Runner Up:

Vagina’s are Magic!

This is the new magic system for Lamentations of the Flame Princess!  People have a lot of work to do getting all the spells in line with the new set up, and this also means the game is no longer backwards compatible with old D&D (sorta).  What’s most important is the system brings it closer in line with DCC’s (and likely the new WFRP’s) magic systems which are superior to the vancian system in oD&D and 5e).

Happy Xmas 2017!

What we did last night is nearly unmentionable. We sat through the FULL 1.5 hour Star Wars Xmas Special. It was some sort of disturbing variety show in essence and it made the children nearly cry. I was waiting for Carol Burnette and Don Knots to show up any second! I barely remember it as a kid except for two things: confusion and disappointment. Despite the horrifying Special, the commercials were amazing. Tons off stuff about unions and manufacturing cars and ‘made in America’ things (including and ad for the ladies undergarment workers union). The things these people worried about happened and we’ve of course become a consumer nation and Xmas is the consumer orgasm of the year.