Monday, August 19, 2013

Roll For Initiative: Day Four, So Long and Thanks for All the Fish

Determined to get my Gencon exclusive Robotech miniatures, I got up ridiculously early on Sunday. Mary and I were sitting in front of the dealer's hall at 6:30am, barely awake on coffee and fumes.

When 10am came around, we charged into the hall alongside hundreds of other hopefuls. We had three tasks: I would get my exclusive Robotech Max and Mirya miniatures (90 of each left), Mary would get our usual Gencon Commemorative Dice (only 35 left, that's what we get for not getting them early), and we would meet at Catalyst to sign up for the Shadowrun experience.

We were 100% successful. I was second on line for Robotech minis, Mary got the dice, and we were scheduled for Shadowrun at 10:30. While we waited, we stopped by Cool Mini or Not for the exclusive Super Dungeon Explore character, Nyan Nyan and to Greater Than Games for some Sentinels of the Multiverse Buttons. By that point, it was 10:35, so we raced back to Catalyst.

The Shadowrun Experience is a thirty minute demo adventure of Shadowrun Fifth Edition. Each players pick a character (in this case, I chose a decker and Mary chose a tank) and are given the rules rundown by the "host" of a popular Seattle shadowrunner club called Dante's Inferno. He introduced us to a Mr. Johnson that was convinced that leaking certain sensitive Ares information to the government has put his life in jeopardy. Sure enough, a group of assassins decided to slay the suit there on the spot. After a couple rounds of combat, Lone Star showed up to break up the fight and arrest all involved. Thanks to an armor spell our mage had cast on the Johnson, and a mass confusion spell, we were able to get away with our injured, but living employer.

As a reward, we were given the Sixth Age Almanac hardcover for free.

We made sure to say goodbye to most of our con friends in case we did not make it to the end of con dinner that a few of the indie publishers we are close to had every year, and made our way back to the JW Marriot for Cortex Fantasy Heroic with Dave Chalker.

The game of Fantasy Heroic (from the Cortex Plus Hacker's Guide) was part of my reward for contributing to the Cortex Plus Hacker's Guide on Kickstarter. Dave paid for pizza and drinks while Jeph, Angie, Mary, and I made characters. Similar to Marvel Heroic: Annihilation, character creation involved choosing a race and a class (your two power sets) and then specialties, aspects, and your experience milestones. This approach was great. It combined traditional fantasy RPG tropes with the Marvel Heroic engine I love in a simple, wonderful package. Our dungeon delve was great and mixed social and action scenes very well. I'd play this again any day.

Finally, when the game ended at 4, we were pooped. We could have waited for our friends to finish breaking down their booths to meet them to dinner, but after four days we were done and wanted to go home to our bed, dog, and home.

This was a decent Gencon (other than the mess that was Pathfinder Society) and it was a great con for Saturday Morning Games. But next year... next year will be amazing.

Till then-

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Roll for Initiative: Day Three, Let's Be Good Guys!

It's Saturday Morning, so with a name like Saturday Morning Games, I figured it was a good idea to do something cool for my gamers in Dime Stories' 9am to 1pm slot. So, I brought them cereal packets and single serving milks. There was much rejoicing.

For the first time, someone chose to be the mercenaries hired to rescue the Village at Naranja Mesa from La Esqueleta's Banditos. In the process of finding a way to keep the Banditos at bay, the mercs stumbled along Butch McCallister (my low level boss before PCs need to face La Esquelata herself). In his datapad, they discovered the Bandito lieutenant was on the take from Megacorp. Further research revealed that Megacorp bought the mine AFTER it had dried up and they had managed to buy up all the mines in the Akauli Cauldron. Megacorp- leading manfacturer of Stargates (the main competition tyrium dependent hyperspace engine manufacturers have for interstellar travel). With the Banditos on the payroll, it was obvious Megacorp  was trying to get rid of the Village and her jobless miners. Despite the shootout that ended the game (and yay! I killed a payer character), the mercenaries had learned of a far larger conspiracy. One that hinted at the destruction of the planet Rath a few decades earlier.

Which got me writing, now that I had a solid idea for the cause of the upcoming civil war we will be exploring in the fourth DS book called Dime Stories: The Imperium Divided.

Again, my players seemed to really enjoy the game, and I found Mary so we could indulge in a Gencon tradition, the Ram. As usual, the Ram had it's fare of beers and Warmachine inspired meals. And as ever, it was excellent.

A final run of the Dealers Hall allowed us to pick up that little game Love Stories I mentioned yesterday, the Age of Rebellion beta book for Fantasy Flight's Star Wars line, and the new Warmachine deck-building game called High Command. Mary got to play X-wing with me and we got to see a few old friends before making our way to Sagamore Hall to try to get in a Pathfnder Society game or two.

This was a total bust.

The PFS mustering system should work in theory, but the places their posters say to muster for certain tiers were not remotely correct. We ended up wandering around asking everywhere if there was room for a level 1 game, but we were scooted along by people looking to play the new hotness adventure ( a level three romp). Even when directed to certain places by Paizo people, we were led to people that could not help us. Complete chaos and a failure on  their part.

We ended up trudging back to the hotel so Mary could change the uncomfortable boots she wore with her Captain Jack Harkness outfit. On the way we ran into Dave Stern and ended up going to Buca di Beppos to celebrate the birthday of Saturday Morning Games' unofficial staff artist, Avery Liell-kok. MMM.. italian food...

Finally we ended the day  hanging out with our friends in Windmill Games playing a game of one of our favorite co-operative card games, Sentinels of the Multiverse.

I didn't get to see all the people I would have liked, and the debacle of Pathfinder Society was really disappointing, but still it was a good day.


Saturday, August 17, 2013

Roll for Initiative: Day Two, I like Tacos!

Friday started with an early jump to the Dealer's Room after a complimentary continental breakfast at my hotel (Thank you Spring Hill Marriot). The goal was to get some celebrity autographs, get some exclusives I wanted, and do the lion's share of my shopping.

Two out of three ain't bad.

I got to meet a Star Trek Original Crewmember in none other than Walter Koenig (Chekov) and the Doctor himself, Peter Davidson. Both gentlemen were gracious and wonderful to meet if a bit weary from convention. But yay! Autographs acquired.

For exclusives, I did not fair as well. First and foremost in my exclusives hunt was Max and Mirya's exclusive miniatures for Robotech Tactics by Ninja Division and Palladium. By 10:15am (fifteen minutes after the Dealer's Hall opened), the line for Max and Mirya stretched half the length of the hall. Considering they only had a couple hundred of the models on hand, the 2-3 hour wait was not going to produce the minis. So, with some sadness, I trudged on to my other important acquisition- Firefly the Game from Gale Force 9.

No luck there either. The game sold out only moments before I arrived at the booth taking away my ability to acquire the convention special Alliance Battleship.

Sadness ensued- so I consoled myself by spending too much money. First we visited Paizo to talk RPG design with Ryan Macklin- you might remember him as the gentleman that had the Game Design Challenge on his blog leading to the creation of Dime Stories. He was refreshingly earnest and frank and we had a great conversation about game design and the ins and outs of the industry. While at the Paizo booth, I bought a set of player mats for the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game and their new comic Pathfinder: Goblins. The day was starting to look up.

It was time to talk to some old friends. Margaret Weis Productions was the first stop. I'd preordered the Firefly Gencon book from MWP a few months earlier for pickup at the con, but the people were the real pull for us. MWP's business manager, Christi, was wonderful and personable as always, and it was great to see her smiling face. We talked about upcoming projects from MWP, mutually lamented the loss of Marvel Heroic, and laid the groundwork for further work to come my way from MWP in the near future (man, I needed this). Margaret Weis herself was on hand to sign my Firefly book, and I couldn't help but pick up the first two novels in her new Dragon Brigade series- which she signed as well. A little thrill goes down my spine every time I meet Margaret and she remains one of my favorite authors every time I  read her work. Amanda Valentine was on hand for some hugs and excitement at the release of her new game, Little Wizards- not to mention, Amanda was to host the Ennies that night. Amanda was the first woman to ever host the Ennies and it was being broadcast all over the world. So... no pressure. And finally, Dave Chalker of Get Bit fame stopped by and we planned for our game of Fantasy Heroic for Sunday- my reward for contributing to the Cortex Hackers Guide Kickstarter. Dave is a great guy and I loved working for him on Marvel Heroic: Annihilation. I can't wait to play Fantasy Heroic with him.

The old friend search continued at Slugfest Games where we spent some time with the lot of them- Cliff, Sam, Jeff, Dave, Yvonne, and the rest were swamped with gamers playing demos and buying games so we couldn't stay too long. I picked up a softcover copy of Red Dragon Inn: A Guide to Inns and Taverns, an awesome Pathfinder Compatible tome that I was lucky enough to help write. Despite the crowds at the booth (ah memories of Gencons gone by), it was great to see them all.

Finally, on our way out, we hit the Wizkids booth to pick up Star Trek Attack Wing, their new tactical combat game based on the rules for Fantasy Flight's awesome X-Wing game. Of course, the best part was their convention exclusive con card.. or rather Khan card, as it were- Khan Noonian Singh. Just...awesome.

After lunch at High Velocity in the JW Marriot (great food. The Prime Rib lunch special just blew me away), we joined my Saturday Morning Games partner Jonathan Lavallee in a game of Critical! Go Westerly. This was a rollicking good time. Mary played a gypsy thief type that knew too much and couldn't keep her mouth shut. A father and daughter from Cincinnati played Gronk, ork hero - if only in his own mind, and Captain- a curmudgeon pirate that had lost her ship long ago and was looking to find it again.. in the land locked cities and forests of Westerly. Go figure. For my part, I played Perolinius- a geriatric master wizard with Alzheimer's and some serious dementia. Between Peck (as Perolinius was called) and Gronk, and with Jonathan's fantastic performance as GM, this game was nothing short of hilarious. I think Mary was broken in laughter by it three times.

To wind down before returning to our room for leftover dinner, Jonathan played a game of Love Stories with us. This is a great, simple, sixteen card game that we picked up instantly and would make a great filler game for any group. I have to be sure to stop by AEG on Saturday to pick up a copy.

Finally, at 8pm I ran my second game of Dime Stories. Another group of gamers had come to experience a new game and we were joined by my co-worker Brian, his friend from Illinois, and former Slugcrew member Owen. Once again, the party elected to work for La Esqueleta and raid the Village. But this adventure went completely the opposite way than the other one. While the other group learned about the hired mercenaries and sought to undermine their operation, this group decided instead to plan for their existence and set up an elaborate trap to slaughter the mercenaries in one massive shootout. Simultaneously, several of the bandits gathered to break Esqueleta's daughter out of the small jail.

All in all, it seemed like everyone had a good time.

Till tomorrow,

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Roll for Initiative: Day One, Enter the Dragon

Day One began in much the same way as every other day- with sadness and pain.

No not really.

I got up early to make sure I received my badge. As a gamemaster, my badge isn't available at the Will Call booths. And unlike Will Call, the Gamemaster HQ isn't 24 hours. Gamemaster HQ opens at 7am and is closed by 8pm. So when we got here at 9-ish wednesday, Gamemaster HQ was already closed. Since we had True Dungeon at 10:14am, I made sure to wake up Mary and drag her kicking and screaming to Gamemaster HQ as early as possible- we got my badge at 8am or so.

Breakfast at Panera. The food was alright, but the best part was getting to talk to Bill Cavalier for a few moments before going in.

Then True Dungeon with my hotel roommates Dave and Heidi, and my friends Jeph, Angie, and Evan. Mary, a new friend Chris, and I had never been to True Dungeon before. It was a pretty cool mix of DnD 3.0, carnival games, and actual problem solving. Though we chose the combat variation of the game for our adventure, fully half of our rooms were puzzle rooms. I could get into a long winded description of how to play True Dungeon, but it's better explained here. In the end, the final puzzle defeated us and our characters all died.

I love the art of the TPK. But only when I am the GM.
So sad.
But at least I pulled a random piece of treasure that apparently sells for more than six times what I paid for my ticket to the event anyway.
So.... win!

Lunch at Champions. Good burgers as usual but FAR more expensive than I remember.

Shopping in the Dealers Hall. First Priority was Catalyst Games. Fifth Edition Shadowrun was officially released at this GenCon. And to make matters worse, they released a pretty leatherbound version with the Mayan calender embossed in gold on the leather cover.

Oh gods it's pretty, and my awesome wife let me have it.

After spending too much money, we made our way back to the hotel and I began to get ready for Dime Stories' first public game.

The event went off without a hitch. Two players had already dropped the game, so I had four players that came to the game. With Mary jumping in to play the crazy luddoc Krem, we had a party of five bandits working for La Esqueleta to relieve the village of its stores in tithe. This evolved into a complicated scheme that involved busting into the local Megacorp HQ to  release a mercenary's wife from indentured servitude.

The players seemed to have enjoyed the game, so I would say this was truly a successful first outing for Dime Stories.

More tomorrow... sleep beckons.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Roll for Initiative: Gencon Pre-show

I figure it would be interesting (for me at least) to chronicle my Gencon experience this year. It is the day before Gencon and we are mostly packed.

After 6, I will pick up my lovely wife and my friends Jeph, Angie, and Evan and make the trek to Indy.

My schedule for the con is fairly light. (Games I am running are in red)

Thursday 10:14am-12:14pm True Dungeon
Thursday 6pm-10pm Dime Stories: The Village at Naranja Mesa JW-204-2
Friday 8pm-12am Dime Stories: The Village at Naranja Mesa JW-204-5
Saturday 9am-1pm Dime Stories: The Village at Naranja Mesa JW-204-1
Sunday 1pm Cortex Fantasy Heroic

This leaves me plenty of time to explore, network, shop, and potentially get my Pathfinder Society on.
I even made a new Aldori Swordlord in case I have the chance to play.

I'll try to update daily as the con trudges along.


Saturday, August 10, 2013

General Gamery: What's in a Name? Introducing... Dime Stories

With Gencon coming up next week, I wanted to talk about the game formerly known as Kingdom Come. As some of you might remember, I wrote a small, 500 word game as an answer to Flash Game Design Friday on Ryan Macklin's blog.

It went very well and it seemed to be thoroughly enjoyed by all who tried it. But there were questions.

"How would you decide this outcome in KingdomCome?"

"What if my players want to do this thing that isn't covered in your rules?"

and most importantly: "I want to see more."

And so I obliged.

Then I joined forces with Jonathan Lavallee (of Firestorm Ink) and Geoff Bottone (formerly of Slugfest Games) to form a team of super villains and take over... wait.. that's not right.

Oh yeah, Jonathan, Geoff, and our better halves: Mary and Amber formed a new game company that we named "Saturday Morning Games".

And first on our agenda? Well, truth be told, I wasn't thrilled with the seven page version of Kingdom Come. There was more to it. I just had to write it. Somehow that ended up first on our list.

So with help and input from Geoff, Jonathan, my friend Jeph Lewis, my beloved wife Mary, and with Amber editing, we came up with a definitive Kingdom Come. Something fun and easy that we could still build upon for future expansions. As it turned out, filling in the gaps and fleshing out the world meant three dozen more pages added to the game. Now we really had something!

Things moved along swimmingly. Kingdom Come events sold out at Gencon and with  Jonathan's contacts and Indie Press Revolution, Kingdom Come even had a distribution house for when we could afford to go to print. But then, while shopping at IPR, I noticed a wrinkle. That's right, there already is a game called Kingdom Come. It came out in 2011 and is a pretty awesome study in faith with fallen angels, the war against Heaven, and it doubles as a LARP.


Well, that meant I was on the hunt for a new name. I had it in me to call the game "Boomworld" since the planet is something of an intergalactic gold rush town. But that would bring the mind to great games like Dungeon World and Apocalypse World and this game has no relation to them (plus I want to save that for an upcoming Pathfinder compatible RPG I'm calling Boomtown). At some point the decision was made to change the name of the planet to Backwater, which fit due to its back-country nature- but we didn't really like that for a game name.

So finally, I chose the name "Dime Stories." It references the old dime novels of the 19th century like Beadle's Dime Novels, Western Tales, Beadle's Ten Cent Stories, Wild West Weekly, and my own favorite- the Jesse James Stories. Dime Stories allows the game to be more generic western as well as set on Backwater so for the free version it works really well.

Oh? I didn't mention there was a free version? Yeah. Dime Stories will appear as a 44 page full color book coming soon in print and in PDF at IPR and DriveThruRPG. There will also be a free version of the game without Jeph's adventure "Easy Money" and any references to Backwater or the background as a whole. It will also have less colorful language and colloquialisms (less "ain't"s and "y'all"s) to make it more accessible.

Now, on to my players at Gencon. I'm a little scared that the folks that signed up for the Kingdom Come adventure Geoff wrote for Gencon, The Village at La Naranja Mesa, might have been expecting to play Kingdom Come by Landry Trent Yacuk. So, the best I can think to do at this point is give each of them a free PDF of Dime Stories and make sure it is the best damn game they play at Gencon.

Anyway, Dime Stories will be available in print soon at the IPR website and in PDF within a couple days at DrivethruRPG and IPR. I will put a link to Dime Stories at IPR in the cover image to the left once it's up on their site.

Soon after, Saturday Morning Games will release a sourcebook that involves city design in Dime Stories and highlights four very different towns with adventures for each called City Slickers, and a book of adventures called Ten Cent Tales. We even have plans for an intergalactic civil war and more to come from Dime Stories. So stay tuned and keep yer guns handy.

Until then, here's a pair of character sheets for Dime Stories.


~The Joe