Sunday, November 19, 2017

Vanishing Tower Press now has a web site!

It is up and running, and will be evolving and improving as I go ahead and give my game stuff its own space.

Vanishing Tower Press will now be the only place to purchase PDF files of USR Sword & Sorcery, Horrors Material & Magic Malignant, Anthropomorphic USR, Fear & Loathing USR and Western USR.

The POD versions of USR S&S and HM&MM are still available on DriveThruRPG and the site links to the order page if this is the product you want. Purchase of either POD softcover book entitles you to the PDF as well so verifying your purchase with your customer number from One Book Shelf seems the simplest way to go for now.

At some point I will consider making a print run and sell the softcover books directly, but currently using a POD service is just the easiest way to go to get hardcopies printed and shipped.

The site will continue to see new adventure products added to the core rulebooks I've created.

Game On!

Unbelievably Simple Roleplaying is copyright Scott Malthouse and Trollish Delver Games.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Artist Call for USR Sword & Sorcery Complete

[EDIT: 11/19/2017] My post here is poorly stated. The artist get's paid up front from a successful Kickstarter. How I wrote it yesterday makes it sound like the artist needs to hope the book sells to get paid. No, no, no. The project only happens if I know the subcontractor is covered.

As I toil away on the Big Black Book of Sorcery for USR Sword & Sorcery I can't help but think I would like a nice hardcover edition of the game. And it would have everything in it produced to date; the core rules, the new supplement, plus the BBBoS as well as the double stack adventure pack I'm working on for more adventures in the world of USR Sword & Sorcery. It would be USR Sword & Sorcery Complete

So I want an artist. I want original artwork which pays tribute to the Ernie Chan drawing and inking which sucked me into Savage Sword during the seventies as well as the indelible stamp of Frazetta and Vallejo which defined the image of Conan to me as a teen. 

And I have no money so the artist who throws into this mad scheme would have to take 50% of profits from the completed work. How I see this working is I complete the text document, then an initial Kickstarter campaign to cover costs of printing and art (there is a local professional press - Gran Farnum) and then sell 400 copies to make a profit however small and call it good.

So if you would like to be the defining artist of USR Sword & Sorcery Complete contact me at your convenience @ +Jay Murphy. Two out of three books are currently complete and available for sale so text on the expanded magic and adventures is underway so by the end of January written content could well be done. Then layout, funding, and press!

Friday, November 17, 2017

The PC's Current "Party"

For my own reference here is a list of the characters which make up the Player Character's group in our Clockwork & Cthulhu campaign. The nominally secret (C)(l)ockwork (U)nderground (B)ureau's list of agents includes;

Zeal-for-the-Lord Harrison, Scoutmaster General NMA-Norfolk, and a major NPC.
Dr. Thomas Norton, NMA Physician, PC.
Ralph Norton, NMA Conscript, PC.
Guillio, NMA Mercenary, PC, and
Craigh, NMA Mercenary, PC (KIA) and replacement currently being rolled up!

The rest of the party consists of the NMA soldiers assigned to Zeal's company when they set out for Yarmouth. Here is the roster of the current living and combat capable NPC's;

Sergeant Francis Sherfield,
Will Drum,
William Frank,
Henry Worth,
Joseph South,
Jan Burkhunt,
Richard Van,
Tobias Bear,
Chris Deere,
Edmund Crew,
Jan Southworth,
Cuthbert Cobb,
Nicholas Tellman,
John Fanshaw,
Joseph Crooke,
Samuel Crooke,
Tom Shaw.

This is the roster of casualties since the company left Norwich;

James Bartlett (Wounded)
Sergeant Anthony May (KIA)
Randall Moelant (KIA)
Mathew Pedlar (KIA)
Roger Kely (KIA)
Thomas Williamson (KIA)
Roger Howard (KIA)
Chris Cox (KIA)

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Character Death 3 in Clockwork & Cthulhu

It sure took long enough for the third PC death of the campaign. Craigh the Outlaw Scot looked where he shouldn't have looked and promptly disappeared like smoke up a chimney. The character's player left the character's choice up to a die roll. I don't know what contested roll against himself he settled on, but it was not the first time he had decided character action by a roll against probability. D100 of course, this is Renaissance.

The NPC body count has been gruesomely high during the game's run and at first the two earlier PC deaths seemed appropriate and fit the pace of my fiendish tastes. But man, there sure was a lag between two and three. Initial characters are robust due to a more generous damage mechanics than found in typical BRP games such as Call of Cthulhu and Elric! The chance for quick death does not punch in until characters are in negative Hit Points. Musket shot at 2D8 damage always pose the threat of serious shredding, but yes the PC's can take some punishment before Serious and Grave Wounds takes them out of the fight.

Of course in the world of Clockwork & Cthulhu horrid magic and weird creatures can exact quick (or lingering) death. And this was the situation for the scotsman Craigh. The mysterious hole had the words "Gaze Not" scrawled above it. So it was presented as threatening. It wasn't random, blam, you look in the room and then you are dead. The player had to make the choice. And I use these death puzzles sparingly. Suites the flavor of the game world; grim and deadly. I also make a point of sometimes fiddling with obscene things may work in the player's favor. I think it is a 70/30 mix. Seventy percent of the time you mess around with arcane forces you will get hosed while thirty percent of the time it will confer some advantage or vital knowledge.

Sunday, November 12, 2017

USR Sword & Sorcery runs at TridentCon 2017

+Pete Segreti was one of the original playtesters for USR Sword & Sorcery and a fan of +Scott Malthouse 's rules-lite mechanics USR in general. This morning he had a full table make a successful run at the introductory adventure found in the rules Shrine of the Keepers!

Never has been seen a more blackhearted bunch of thieving dogs I say!

Pete posted about his experience here. It sounds like much pulpish reaving was accomplished. I wonder if the PC's don't mind leaving the city of Tizuk since their ill-gotten gains will find no buyers within the city walls...?

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Further Reflections on Bladerunner 2049

This is Way Full of Spoilers...


In an earlier post I stuck my thumbs, way up for the Bladerunner sequel. I have also viewed Razor's video film review and I can't say I disagree with him much, except while his criticism are valid, do not alter in anyway what a great movie the sequal is.

I felt the new movie was packed with subtext. That the ideas were so very big and so much was packed into this "slow" movie that any legit critique on the films visual product just doesn't distract from the movie's storytelling achievement.

Some of the obvious subtext packed into the visual narrative were the male car power symbol and the replicant Love's savage "womb" murder of the police chief's tightly bound emotional messiness. And none of that film noir voice overs to tell you what is going on or what people are thinking and feeling. The workmanship way the protagonist was hauled out of the skies by the garbage pickers in San Diego, loved it.

Visually yes the movie has stunning scenes, but as would be expected it is not so much the elements but the expert handling of space. Intense focus on the individual while moving through various layers of physical space from the claustrophobic to vertigo inducing openness. This never lets up. No matter where our main character finds himself there is always the pressure of the "other". Never does our hero feel alone, but at the same time completely isolated.

These are all boringly, maddeningly trite cliches fleshed out during early twentieth century literature. I think it was called "Modern" literature or some such. Sartre covers all this.

I like the fact that "every" current replicant is set up to believe they are the miracle child.

The very human police chief, she is awesome. Could have done without Deckard. Really, the time involved would erase his existence. The concepts being tackled could have withstood this earlier character's abscence. Shouting in the car, asking questions with no answers. Big fat rabbit hole.

The villain's answer to the paradox is simple and archetypal. Unmoving cosmic forces given the face of flesh. Good sci fi movie. I look forward to watching it again and letting it marinade in my psyche some more. And all this yes the criticism are all still valid and it doesn't matter.

Anthro USR NPC's

Here are the stats I've used for the NPC's the players have come across so far in our "side" campaign game;

A8 W6 E6 H5 S. Group Tactics +2A.
Combat Armor +3DR, Auto Pistol(ROF3).

Special Agent Scott Roger Scott
A8 W6 E6 H6 S. Fire Arms +2A, Investigation +2W.
Combat Armor +3DR, Auto Pistol(ROF3).

Capitol City Cop
A6 W6 E6 H6
Auto Pistol(ROF3), Handcuffs, Radio.

Willow Paiva
A6 W8 E8 H4 S. Candle Making +1A, City Knowledge+1W.
Backpack, 1/8 Weed.

Ava Gabrielle, MD(Animal)
A6 W8 E6 H6 S. Big Animal Vet +2W.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Two products deserving a second look; England Upturn'd, and Clockwork & Cthulhu

... or how I was wrong about two great game products.
I chimed in to Bryce Lynch's review of England Upturn'd  and agreed with many of his points sited. Then I found myself returning to England Upturn'd again and again during my Clockwork & Cthulhu campaign. Not only that, but I mentioned in game I thought the Clockwork & Cthulhu sourcebook from Cakebread & Walton was "a bit thin" in game to my players. I need to reassess these two opinions in light of the milage I have gotten out of these products for my BRP Cthulhu &  Chivalry campaign. 

England Upturn'd by Barry Blatt is still an adventure I would not run whole cloth, but very rarely do I use an adventure as presented so this should not be taken as a knock. The module does provide information on the political divisions found within English society during the civil war. As a "Yank" I am not well versed in the scope and sweep of the English Civil War and I think most people running a period piece game will find the description of the different "sides" in this complex and consequential war useful. Barry puts in enough to run you initial adventure. After this if your game continues you will want to pick up some real history. No adventure is going to give you, nor should it, a comprehensive view of this conflict. I believe some of my initial frustration with England Upturn'd was mostly my perturbation realizing I had to do some of my own research to run my campaign to my satisfaction. But what these 128 pages gives you are useful disease and weather tables, laundry list of useful NPC's, plenty of plot hooks and enchanted items, useful locations and maps, and art which puts forth the absolute brutal nature of the times. As a PDF the value is met and exceeded.

Clockwork & Cthulhu, yes it only clocks in at 159 pages but there isn't a piece of this book I have not used. My first impression of the three scenarios was meh, but I have gotten so much milage out of just one of the scenarios it is kind of ridiculous. Same for the mythos, bestiary and factions chapter. When you have had to tape the book together and it becomes heavily tabbed and highlighted, well, I find this the operative definition of "utility".

At the end of the day these two publications have given my campaign game an essential framework which I and my players have been able to embellish with our own ideas and given us all a "believable" world in which to run around in burning warlocks and demons and such. So if you plan on running a sixteenth century English campaign I recommend these two books highly for the Game Master.

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Anthropomorphic USR AAR 3

Scheduled game of Clockwork & Cthulhu did not fire today so it was time for another edition of Yak n Ape with Anthropomorphic USR.

We started right where we stopped last time, with the PC's riding the subway out to the zoo. Willow, the candle maker they met on the subway, finally figured out the PC's were not human, but she stuck to her hippie values and offered to show them the way. The subway stop was a small station with few passengers and they were watching the late breaking Capitol City news. Some kind of explosion downtown, city wide blackout has occurred. Authorities are warning people to evacuate a specific area of Capitol Market, and the source of the explosion is unknown at this time.

The PC's quickly made themselves scarce and hurried down the night time streets of Royal Oaks to the zoo. They said goodbyes to Willow and scrambled onto the zoo grounds. They soon encountered the zoo's Big Game Vet Ava who was shocked to see her animals transformed so. She was sure Yak n Ape were two of the four animals stolen from her two weeks ago. The Yak exhibit was not so much being remodeled but the site of a crime scene investigation by Chrome and the Capitol City Police.

Ava takes blood and tries to push sedatives on them. She wants to knock the PC's out and call the authorities because she doesn't know what to do with talking walking genetically altered animals. The PC's are wise to such ploys so she eventually excuse herself and calls the cops.

Here the PC's get up and try to leave. Outside near the front of the gate two SUV's pull in disgorging locked and loaded dudes complete with ear mic and tactical assault weapons. Not heeding orders to stop the black ops agents light up the PC's with fire. But instead of bullets they are cut down by tranquilizer darts. They come to back in the vet's lab, but this time securely tied down. The PC's are unable to pass a successful test of strength to break free. Special Agent Scott Roger Scott is talking to an anxious Ava as his men load the PC's on board a van. The PC's are put under again after brief questioning and come to in a different facility being faced with Special Agent Scott again. He wants to know what the two of them have to do with the explosion downtown. Seems he has a small nuclear core meltdown under the streets of Capitol City same time these two clowns start choking cops in the subway tunnels. The PC's say yeah they know all about it. Saw the whole thing happen. This gets Scott excited. He is going to take the PC's back into the underground lab and show him where the meltdown occurred. He plans to get concrete pumped onto the leaking nuclear pile after the scene of the explosion is examined. He wants the city street paved over and traffice running within twenty four hours. Official line is a neglected gas main ruptured causing terrible underground destruction. Fortunately no loss of life had occurred due to the blast, but there where fatalities caused by the ensuing blackout.

The PC's are forced to suit up and enter the lab. After going over the complex it is apparent most of the on site hardware is cooked. CHROME science agents collect all the samples and data they can from the scene before the concrete pumping commences. Finding the burnt out nuclear hole is not too difficult. With the radiation signal and black pit and all. Scott was radioing in where to send the pumping truck when horrible tentacles reached out and attacked. A seething toxic genetic monstrosity, five tentacled in all, gropes for the ceiling above ripping stone and concrete in its slavering madness. Fifteen feet across with a gaping maw, it first grabs Yak but is unable to hang on. Yak sweeps the room with autofire after using his terrible powers of the mind to acquire the gun, but does not know how to operate a gun at all. CHROME agents have better luck and rip up the monster. Angered by the blinding poo of Ape the monster grabs Ape from the wall and swallows him whole. The Ape fights back and forces the beast to put back what it had just ate. A final blast from the agents and the beast lay dead.

The team was ordered to wrap it up and head back to CHROME HQ here in Capitol City. With the nuclear waste being buried it was time for Scott to try and get answers out of Yak n Ape and what he is actually looking at. The operation or perhaps the facility is referred to as “Central”. What it is and what it wants are two questoins Scott wants answers to. For their corporation he could promise safety to the PC's, safety from those who altered them. The PC's were skeptical about any offers of safety on their behalf and wanted to know if they could make a phone call. Scott agreed and Yak called Willow the hippie candle maker down to Chrome offices and corroborate his story. She was kind of shocked to hear from him, actually Yak was shocked I wanted to role play this, but yes I did so Willow would try and get down there during her lunch break. Here I called it because I did not know what should happen next. Feel free to offer suggestions which way the campaign should go. I like to offer various avenues players can choose from. Scott wants to run down Central, he has the PC's so starting a hunt for their target would be in order. Maybe that is enough for initial adventure material?

Saturday, October 14, 2017

Blade Runner Retro Post Saturday

Back in 2014 I was ruminating over my love affair with Blade Runner and the fact my love of my life doesn't like it at all. "Eighties movies just look so dated." she said after making her watch it. Well I didn't ruminate much. I just dropped the conversation and posted an essay I read on the film just to make sure I could say "I know what's real."

And watching Blade Runner 2049 this evening I was vindicated. Look I like smart people challenging me, sharpen my game, but I close down when you start talking like my dad or you throw shade on Blade Runner. "So what got you into Blade Runner in the first place?" she asked me three hours later after I gave the love of my life three to four outs on passing this three hour evening commitment. "I watched it." I replied. "It hit all the big notes of sci fi in film that never gets done." I said. There are other great sci fi movies. I love Close Encounters, Star Wars, Silent Running, etc. but Blade Runner are movies which treat me like I can get subtle storytelling.

Most Hollywood fare tells you how you need to think and feel about the work. Like a Pepsi ad here is your prefabbed experience. What I like about the original, and now it's sequel, is it is a major film that lets me run with the story and make a bunch of shit up that makes it "real" to me. Much like how a good TTRPG goes. Everyone has their own wild imagination going on at the table, none is more real than the other. Mutual respect. That is what I got when I was fourteen and what I got tonight.

I am pleased with the sequel because it has a ripping soundtrack, characters I know nothing about stand out deep and present against the backdrop of a life without meaning, and not much is explained, thank you. Just good literary thoughts painted on a canvas immediately relatable to me where I am and keeping me fascinated. The Blade Runner movies make me a better game master, nuff said.

Thursday, September 28, 2017

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Tres Leches Fear & Loathing

Herein is the final chapter in this the first playtest of Fear & Loathing in Fat City for Fear & Loathing USR.

The next day found the PC's ripping it up on Horse Mountain and role played their way into losing Carol on the backside of the ski resort in gnarly out of bounds terrain. Peachy and the Dude followed her tracks out but got caught in an avalanche. Finally they reached a forest road where it looked like Ross got picked up on a snow mobile and was gone. This royally pissed the duo off and before they could decided what the hell was going on the headlights from a couple of more snowmobiles illuminated Dude and the Peach.

They were angling for a ride from the two strangers but when they pulled guns it became evident they weren't there to give our PC's a ride. A hilarious, accidental on cue “I thought you had the gun!” back and forth between Peach and the Dude allowed an initiative roll where Peach managed to draw the .32 they took off of Latin and get a shot off first. Dude went for the mad grapple on the other hired gun and managed to tie him up long enough for Peach to point the gun at him after blowing away hired gun #1. Hired gun #2 gave up at that point and the PC's were able to get the sordid details out of him. 

Seems Curtis Ross Sr. is running for sheriff and if it is found out his daughter has been living trans-gendered all these years, and recently underwent a sex change operation Curtis Ross, real estate magnate, would kiss his political career goodbye. He would also see Carol's sports franchise goes up in smoke overnight. Somehow Bishop, the Ross's managing editor, had come up with Carol's medical file. In good faith the eager journalist confronted Mr. Ross about having to release a story. That would affect his boss, and his employment. But you know, what are we going to do about this… ? Ross didn't get rich being indecisive. He stove in Bishop's face right before his daughter rolled into town. Of course this left Mr. Ross with the hassle of hiding his murderous act. I sure didn't know what the middle-aged millionaire should do.

When the PC's showed up and started being super helpful and all Ross decided the PC's had to go. Carol could see the wisdom in dad's thinking too. The PC's just know too damn much. Maybe take them out skiing? Get them into some technical terrain? Accidents happen in the backcountry all the time. Just to be sure have a couple of reliable hands keep an eye on things, tie up any loose ends.

The PC's were once again caught wondering what to do. “What do we care, what's in it for us?” they asked themselves and me. 

Good questions and one I didn't have a good answer for. Stalling for time I asked the PC's to go through the cast of characters they had encountered, or not, so far on the adventure. In a round about way we got to the Environmental Cowboy who lived in a mountain cabin not far from where they were at. He had come up in the narrative earlier. He was a trust-funding law school grad who was leading the charge to have Carol's televised alpine descent canceled. He has a court injunction until an environmental impact study can be completed. Carol says it is all just sexist bullshit. But either way he is a (m)NPC they haven't interacted with. The PC's commandeer the snow mobiles, take all the guns and leave hired gun #2 with his dead buddy on the snowy road determined to find Environmental Cowboy's remote cabin. Upon arriving they are greeted by barking dogs and Roger Kinrock, an independently wealthy and fiercely independent outdoors man.

This was the two and half hour mark and not only did I not have a handle on this NPC I did want to get some feedback from my players before we called it a night. I told them as much. It was kind of a shame. We had hit the perfect spot for the game's climax, but I confessed I didn't know which way I should go with Kinrock. Instead of forcing a poorly improved ending I wanted to use what time we had left to critique the rules, the adventure and our overall play.

Being awesome they agreed and provided a frank bull session on some of the fun and frustration to be had with a “modern” rpg campaign. The good news was the adventure delivered on genre expectations. The PC's felt it wasn't lack of interesting events popping off to engage, but wondering what was the next move was part of the role playing challenge. I was also concerned about how the inherent “off-color” content of the genre would play. Having sensitive real life topics such as racism, sexism, transphobia as mere plot elements in a game may generate play which inadvertently offends someone at the table. I only had to mention this as one of my initial concerns during this critique because I was fortunate enough to play the session with grown ups. The PC's were able to discuss content and play, as it came up, resolve any issues of what was appropriate for entertainment and what wasn't and the game moved on.

I really only brought it up so as to honor their excellent skills. Remember these two players had never met, let alone play this game with some clearly loaded content, and they breezed through it and kept the loose improve heavy game session on track.

So yeah I confessed I didn't know if I should go all horror, death trap in the woods with this guy, or he is for real and knows who they can trust in Fat City… and that I really wanted their thoughts on the matter. Having the guy turn into a mad serial killer would of worked for them it seems. They didn't think it would have been over the top. I don't know, I thought it was a little cliche. I can't remember all their good feedback. It was spot on, that I can tell you. I think they even resolved the Environmental Cowboy nicely for me. I can't remember. It was late. But Fear & Loathing USR delivers what it says on the tin, Player Approved!

Fear & Loathing (part deux)

The appearance of our second PC for the night's session couldn't have been better timed. Our Denver office employee and ameture boxer was at a loss for what he wanted to do next. This is where I find running a modern rpg session challenging. Creating outlandish encounters with normal, mundane ingredients. We have guidelines as established in the rules set, that the game is “for running games in the bizarre world of 1970’s Gonzo politics, drugs, sports, sex and violence...”, but what does that mean? With the major non-player characters ((m)NPC) I randomly rolled? 

So not an easy game to run or play. But Hippie Snowboard Dude (HSD) was all for doing something for Ms. Ross. Actually I don't know what their plan was, but they ended up at Ross's house who eagerly tasked the PC's with snatching some files from the Juggernaut's office. She even loaned them her 1970 Bronco, lousy wipers and all.

Their B&E on the newspaper went without a hitch. Mostly because HSD ignored a stranger trying the office door. Finishing the blunt and the mission the duo argue what to do with the file they took in front of the truck in the alley. Seems the dead ME had a file on Carol Ross's procedure which changed her from her original self; Curtis Ross Jr. Just as the PC's decided to take the info to Carol as she asked that slick hombre shows up again. This time with a gun. And he's asking for whatever they took from the office. Between the two of them they subdue their assailant with a brutal snowboard smash to the face and only one errant shot going off from the slick hombre's .32 pistol. They truss up slick hombre, throw him in the back of the truck and check his wallet. Chico Latin. They take him to the Ross residence and let Dad and Daughter know they picked someone up along the way. 

Here the players hashed out what was the best thing to do and provided some unique role playing opportunities, namely how to stay out of trouble and how much did the PC's really care what happened here in Fat City. The end result was they had a good way of dumping Chico Latin on the sherrif deputy outside and throw heaps of suspicion on this local drug dealing operator they beat hell out of. It was well explained so their ploy paid off. Except the cops were getting a different story of events from Latin so they wanted the PC's not to leave town. Not just yet. Carol Ross invited the PC's to stay over and go skiing in the morning.

(to be continued)

Fear & Loathing in Fat City

I consider running a “modern” rpg one of the genres I have the least experience in running in any satisfactory manner. I'm not even sure if I have a good grasp of reliable adventure design elements to ensure staying on genre “point” while handling this new type of setting. I created Fear & Loathing USR in an attempt to improve my modern role playing game mastering skills. Modern in this case means gonzo journalism an politics in early seventies America.

With your appropriately brief USR custom rules set and my initial untested adventure module Fear & Loathing in Fat City, two great gamers sat around the virtual table top with me and we gamed an insightful and rewarding session around tricky subject matter and highly improvisational plot hooks.

Peter arrived first and had a Fascist, an office worker and amateur boxer from Denver named Abel Peachy. His car broke down on the way to Fat City so he hitched a ride with Carol Ross, local celebrity athlete coming out of hiding to perform a controversial ascent up Capitol Peak. She wants to stop at her father's newspaper office to pick up some media tickets. She thinks it would be fun to come see Abel Peachy's performance at the Celebrity Fight Night. Maybe even find time to grab a drink at the Rank Elk before going in to the venue.

Peachy is frantically trying to figure out how he is going to fit in getting a drink with this delightful angel before he has to suit up for his fight when Carol lets out a hysterical scream. She has come across the body of James “Jim” Bishop, the young managing editor of the Fat City Juggernaut. He is lying out on the floor near a desk, his head stove in and bloody. The weapon, an editorial award Jim won back as an intern in college, is on the floor near the body stained with hair and blood.

With a call to the sheriff it isn't long before Peachy realizes he won't be making his fight and he won't be making any money for tonight's efforts. Around midnight he is finally released from questioning. Nothing left to do Peachy walks into the Rank Elk Inn and heads to the bar to watch TV and get a beer. Some slick looking hombre pesters Peachy with many questions on what was going on with the police over at the Juggernaut office and offered Peachy a ride so he could, obviously, keep on wheedling him for information. Peachy told him what he knew and the slick guy seemed satisfied and he let him out at his hotel.

The next morning Peachy was back at the Rank Elk trying to choke down breakfast and trying to think of what to do next when Bret the Hippie Snowboard dude comes on in and asks what is uuuuuuuup! Our second PC of the night has arrived!

(to be continued...)

Sunday, September 17, 2017

This Special Joy

I was able to run another session of my "long running" BRP Cthulhu & Chivalry campaign after a month on hold. It was on hold because of my vacation schedule fell on our game dates so weeks passed by without a session.

But we got back on the horse, killed people, and interacted with new and interesting beings. At the conclusion of the session one of the players posted; "Thanks for a pretty weird session today. I've missed playing with you guys."

And that is about as good as it gets. As we all know the game doesn't run without everyone's investment and participation. According to Robin's Laws of Good Gamemastering I as Keeper only count for 30% of the game experience. I can get on board with that. I can write up all sorts of adventures, read fiction, look for inspiration wherever I can, but without a group of PC's to "toss the salad" all I have is just pretty poor fiction plot outlines.

So, I missed you guys too. Thanks for another great game!

Thursday, August 31, 2017

Lamentations of the Flame Princess Interview

Just One More Fix posted a great interview they did with +Zak Sabbath , +James Raggi , and +Patrick Stuart . Episode 51 was recorded at GenCon50 and contains many good important points for those interested in publishing in today's RPG environment.

Friday, August 25, 2017

Savage Satisfaction in Indianapolis

I had made it clear long ago when Colorado made the heavy civil rights move it did in '14 I was not inclined to traverse state lines much anymore. I could see the eminent reason for sober, rational people to want to avoid the straight up scene GenCon50 actually is, or would become and counted myself as one who would not attend.

I had written it off as far as my attendance was concerned months ago. Not that I didn't want to attend a game conference and there was a lot to like about this one. Attendance records broken, more gaming available than ever before, an awful sprawling real dungeon crawl on a timer. It would clearly be an endurance test of monumental undertakings if I was to squeeze all I could out of the affair.

But there just wasn't enough going on weird. The idea of going to GenCon50 hadn't really gotten heavy traction in my head. Not enough to trigger action anyways. I've had my share of bloodless affairs, no matter how hyped thank you. An over-niter to Willow Lake is the better, saner choice. And it wasn't that there wasn't anything I didn't want to see or game at the convention center. I had a stack of LotFP books on my desk hungry for signing and as the roster of writers and artists who were making the journey mounted…. But still, could I take seeing the greasy wheels of commerce and the commodification of everyone's fun right in front of me? Could I leave my mountain fastness for sweaty transit and food deserts? I could shudder.

So this particular trip began mere weeks ago in my parents place back east. A good friend came over and he had gotten his game published. I play tested it like five years ago. In the loving, caring way only people with history have I told him “It's not fun, it sucks.” He thought I was wrong and he had a great game. Lo and behold he was right. He did have a great game in there and through continuous play test and design it was uncovered.

While watching the nerdfamous documentary “The Next Great American Game”; the story of my friends journey to gaming conventions on his quest to get published, we unpacked the Ultra-Pro produced product. “How'd you handle handing over your game to suits,” I inquired. Knowing Randall giving up creative control on his own art would be resisted. I mean he battles over fonts like they are living beings. “I was done, I wanted to see it published.” he said. “I've been working on this thing for ten years and someone bought it. If they want to call it Road Hog they can call it Road HogI'm going to run demos and sell it out of the Ultr-Pro booth at Gen Con. You should come.”

My friend is a clever bastard and the fascinating movie production was a nice touch. I was being expertly sold. I had just been trained as a booth monkey before I knew it. Over my mom's homemade Moroccan stew and fresh decaf he had me watch the game's story. There was one last hurtle though; how does it play? I'm not going to sell my ass on the convention floor for just any piece of Ameritrash. It better work. After a two player session and five player play with family it was obvious this wasn't the same game I demoed years ago. This was a real, complete game people could play and have fun with. I booked my ticket that night, the idea of GenCon50 just found traction.

Wednesday morning started out bright and crisp at eight with hot coffee and planned hike up Twin Sisters in RMNP. My flight didn't leave till just after midnight so ample time for another scramble up the high rockies and a bit of solitude. Collect my thoughts before the steep plunge. I had managed to purchase an event badge as well as schedule a game of Champions and Cyberpunk2020 and my ENnie tickets. The rest of the time was to push Road Hog, get my LotFP swag signed and otherwise let the con wash over me and see what it had to offer. I also needed to plan how I could introduce Randall Hoyt, my game designing friend, to James Edward Raggi IV, King of the North. See a month or two ago James posted interest in looking at graphic design/layout talent. Solid talent. The kind that could hit deadlines. No matter how my long association with Randall has colored my thinking he artistically is f#$ing amazing, a polished graphic design professional, into games, and has the only board game documentary I know of featuring actual description of body horror. When I first saw Raggi's post I knew I had his man. But would Randall be interested? Had his board game journey left irreparable scars; the cold corporate shoulders and the eventual shallow money trench of 6% royalties hardened his heart that there was nothing redeeming in this industry? That there was no art to be found in this joyous activity? Ahh fuss and bother. No use worrying about what is beyond one's control. Once he affirmed his interest in new, private design work I had informed consent all around. Just make the introduction, give the reason why I think it is a strong move for both of them and wash my hands of it. Its a part I can play in the revolution and now my adventure is more than hack 'n slash. Now it has intrigue! I did follow some modicum of standard business practice. No use pitching when no one is buying. I fired G+ missive to James if talent was still being looked at. When pursuing mad dreams I thought it best to tamp down the fact I'm fan-boy unhinged as long as possible.

Midnight came and nothing was left but to find platform 9-3/4. By five am I expected to be at Randall's hotel with mere minutes to shower. The enormity of my task, endurance-wise was now starting to fall in place. First off I made a real bad calculation on time. Indianapolis is East Coast time, not Central. Ultra-Pro in their ultimate wisdom had bivouacked their new hot game designer in the Red Roof Inn South forty minutes by the #14 bus from the convention center. My back of the envelope Jack Kerouac calculations had me on eight hours total sleep over a period of four days! Good thing I brought Purel. When the coffee starts to become ineffective the harsh sanitizing gel on open wounds can shock one alert. 

My Champions game was first up at 8am on the second floor of the JW. I arrived in Indy a sleep-deprived panicked man babbling incoherently about the “operation”. It had clearly risen to operational status as there were significant separate objectives to the campaign which all needed achieving if the adventure was to be counted a success. I was given a hand packed lunch as my good friend ushered my shattered soul on the morning bus. I had enough wits about me to include my LotFP books for signing and I raised logistical questions as they came to me. Randall confidently brushed them aside. “What we need to do is go straight to the JW and get you to your game. When you're done come find me at the Ultra-Pro booth.”

The packed lunch got me through the 28 hour mark and the Champions session folded up with the GM offering his own licensed Hero adventure supplements to us. It confirmed that, though I have a huge soft spot for the game, I would not use it to run supers games now. Combat takes too much time to complete RAW and there is sooo much more to role play in a supers campaign than boss fights. Champions crowds some of these opportunities out with the time needed for combat in real time. By now it was clear I couldn't do my 8pm game of Cyberpunk. I was running on fumes. I needed food and sleep before then. I was even concerned for my utility in the Ultra-Pro booth in the afternoon stretch. Tick tock, tick tock.

I took a seat at booth 709 right when another game of Road Hog was getting started. The enthusiasm of the players buoyed my spirits and I happily gamed several hours away while people snatched up copies at a regular pace. Zak S. listed brownie points convention goers could earn for super cool prizes so I started working on what I could while I played. I wore my LotFP tee over my Zak S. Red King/Flesh Golem tee so I could snap some photos. Randall's documentary “The Next Great American Game” from Grandfather Films established his nerdfamous creds so I felt my brownie point tally was off to a hot start. Earlier I had zeroed in the closest convenience store for the Cherry Dr. Pepper and sugar/caffeinated beverages so I had those points literally in the bag.

I wasn't going to get any fresher so it was time to get my favorite LotFP goods signed by the creators. It was time to see these wonderful creatives which gave me back role playing. Booth 2904 was a blaze of activity. People were listening and buying. Zak S. led the charge and easily swept up curious RPG'ers into looking at LotFP's books. Once looking, once holding these indie gems clever, sophisticated, fun loving gamers grasped Raggi's weird horror aesthetic with clarity and cash. It was truly moving.

I swept the booth crew of creators for my treasured celebrity signatures. Raggi, Zak, Patrick Stuart. I got to meet Jacob Hurst and listen to his wonderful pitch on his books. My budget was consciously constrained so Qelong was my “this is such a deal” buy and I had to make a decision between the badass LotFP tee or the Rules & Magic book. I went with the book. The only person I didn't see at the booth was Jez Gordon. But this was okay because I still hadn't purchased a silver sharpie. LotFP goods have many pages in black.

Closing up the Ultra-Pro booth just before 6 I couldn't believe I had made it so far. I was at the 36 hour mark and feeling every inch of it. Randall was assuring me I didn't fumble the last demo. He had stepped out for a smoke break just as two buddies from Iowa approached the table. They wanted to get one more game in before the Exhibitor's Hall shut down for the night. Words, I don't have my words! I thought to myself. Human speech at this point was a struggle. Whether Randall's sentiments were true or not I took satisfaction each one of the Iowans walked off with a purchased and signed copy of Road Hog first edition. I ascented to all my friend's suggestions on what we were now going to do. Somewhere I knew food and bed was at the end of the schedule so I was all on board. We shot b reel and monologue for promotional video as we meandered the vast convention hall. “I would have never found my game this morning, never made the bus if it wasn't for you.” I acknowledged. Randall nodded and said it was all because he had been here before. I was benefiting from his earlier explorations and he knew right where to go. We wrapped up shooting which all would eventually be posted on Grandfather Film's site touting the success of Road Hog and caught the 14 back out of town. Tick tock, tick tock.

Andy Ashcraft is a game designer from Los Angeles. He has a passion for supers role playing and has a pivotal role in the current success of Road Hog. While his work on Road Hog is well documented in the film what may not be apparent is how awesome and genuine of a person he is. I got to experience this first hand when he swung around to the Ultra-Pro booth to congratulate Randall on the success of Road Hog. He also has an opening in his Friday morning game “The Hero Instant”, his homebrew supers role playing game so I now have a four hour session first thing. Coffee and commute again to the convention hall. Splitting duties between face to face gaming and Road Hog demos, I'm excited.

But today is going to be tougher than yesterday. There is no way I can return to the hotel before the Ennie awards ceremony tonight. I'm committed to being a witness to gaming history unfolding over the next twelve hours at GenCon50. It is one of the important missions being pursued on this fast moving, messy operation. I would not see 146 Red Roof Inn South till Saturday. Stick deodorant will be the staff I lean on today. And water, lots of water. And gum. I have another packed lunch and I know where the cracks, the tension is going to come from between Randall and myself. I go a mile a minute with Randall, always have, and I never appreciate how he takes care of many details which need caring for. He always, and rightly so, takes it as selfish indifference on my part. Not that I don't thank him regularly for hosting me and hooking me up. Somehow it never is enough. Our personal, cultivated dysfunction will manifest I'm sure along these lines. Thankfully I have the mission. I can harden my heart to the work which needs to be done today and possibly avoid a messy emotional scene between us.

Charlotte Stokely surely bought me time before the brief restorative powers of sleep I captured leaked out of me and help me calm down before the Ennie award ceremony started. Patrick Stuart mentioned here Ms. Stokely has a Charisma 18. While indisputably correct, let me add my experience. Charlotte is disarming. I was pretty sure she was one of the D&D players as seen on “I Hit it with My Axe”. I managed to say as much. “Stokely,” she answered affirming she was indeed a regular player. “So what's your story?” she asked. Mercifully what follows is not caught on the Ennies 2017 live stream. I had managed to sit myself down next to Chris H. in the front row of the ceremony hall. He was the only person, outside of Zak, who I had gamed with on G+ who I met at the con. Any semblance of reigning in my raving fanboy enthusiasm is clearly dispelled by the video. There were sooo many accomplished artists who accepted my wide eyed adulation over the last 48 hours graciously. It got so bad I began hoarding napkins in my pockets so I could wipe off any spray I inadvertently let off.

But Stokely, yeah she had taken a seat in the front row. Zak had come past and just declared LotFP deserves a table up front with Chaosium and whoever else was up there. Fair point I thought. Don't sleep on the revolution, don't sleep on these girls and guys who make up the DIY OSR. They don't miss an opportunity to argue the merits of their work. “What's the difference in sales between a gold and silver ennie?” I asked Chris H. “Ask Raggi, he'd know.” and he was right. James would know. But I sure wasn't going to ask him. I had cashed my face to face time with the King of the North twenty minutes ago. Randall agreed to come over to Union Station Hall and meet James. His time was limited tonight and he wanted to catch the 14 before local transit closed for the night. “I'll take an Uber.” I assured him. It was a lie. I had arrived on the field of battle and I was not going to relinquish it until victory or death was achieved! The JW third floor lobby was what I had targeted for bed already. I'd hear about the hours I'd keep later. “Make sure you're quiet when you come in. You can be a talker.” Tick tock, tick tock.

James Edward Raggi IV was as affable as when I first met him at his LotFP booth, booth 2904, on Thursday. He appeared comfortable and confident in the well earned support of the talented writers, artists and production folk who surrounded him this weekend. LotFP was up for multiple awards again and the stakes couldn't have been higher. Veins of the Earth was a big project for LotFP and one they had to do. Patrick Stuart and Zak S. had shown they were not slowing down with high level game art so everyone, including the publishing house, needed to be prepared. Not that they alone were going to bury editors and publishers with appetite satiating adventure content gamers were ready to throw money at. No, they only represented the vanguard of many more behind them and the industry better suit up to meet the demand going both ways. Of stampeding fans for more and more creative content on one side and more and more artists offering up high level content which needs to be released. “This is the guy I was talking about...” I introduced Randall and James and I made my pitch there on the Ennie floor. “He sounds expensive.” grins James. “You do it for the love.” Randall rejoins. Corny as the line is Randall has his Ultra-Pro royalties contract to inform him of the nature of standard industry rates. Short and sweet. The light banter continued after the pitch as I hoped, nothing left but the follow up, the obligatory review of work, some contact information. “And you'll have to talk to Zak and Patrick. They are the ones most interested in graphic design and information technology” James says. Bampf, sales jujitsu. Just when I thought I had another mission wrapped up, done reasonably well without too much embarrassment to myself or others and I'm back at square one. I don't have time to set up another meet and greet. I can't scramble and put something together last minute without being a pushy bad bore. Not anything with any memorable or useful impact. If I had even achieved that up to this point! Rookie mistake threatened to unwind the operation in the end game. Tick tock, tick tock.

I was tearing my face a little. Randall bounced to his friends and corporate backers. He had no reason to think anything amiss. He networks and solicits work with the best of them in his field. There is so much networking going on during GenCon this was just one of many connections he would run through this week. I would get one chance, maybe, at the D&Dw/PornStars after party to close the loop opened up by Raggi which I now wanted to close. This would look all ham handed (cause it was) and no bets I could stay on my feet another 3 hours. Pitching on the floor was done. It was time now for the celebrants and LotFP's dogfight attack on top prizes. So I started tallying my brownie points. You can see when Zak comes in and generates the whole “Sean  Patrick Fallon” airport meltdown's genesis on the live feed.

As a Dungeon Master and role player there is one question I always have an answer for, trained to have an answer for and it is simply “What's your story?” Which one? I have so many! I think when Ms. Stokely asked me my favorite question I made some kind of gasping, wheezing noise. I was down to my last gulps of water in my bottle. But somehow I found my breath and plunged into a story. It was the only story I wanted to tell anyways and it was why I was sitting here in the front row at the Ennies. I must have done well because when my story touched on USR Sword & Sorcery and my own game design she asked if she could see it. Gasping and wheezing noises again. When the color returned to my eyes and I could verify the walls of Hogwarts still stood I pulled my copies of USR Sword & Sorcery and Horrors Material & Magic Malignant out from my pack. And I started to explain it and why I made it and how awesome the G+ community was in helping me get it done. “Are you going to let me touch it?” Next to any entry of zombie in any rpg monster guide you could place the look on my face just then. Pale, no colourless. I was discussing my game with one of my gaming culture's long time heroes and this queen of cool had given me three outs to save myself from the total nerf-fan-paralysis I was succumbing to and I was frozen up like a dead thing. I unclutched my books as she gently removed them from my hands and skimmed the rules. Oh I wasn't done embarrassing myself yet. I start something I finish it. Charlotte commented on the character sheet in the back. She approved of making a good sized section for adventure notes. “No its a character sheet.” I blurted out. I took her meaning different. I couldn't hear. I made another quick assumption on what someone was saying and I was wrong. Of course Ms. Stokely knows it is a character sheet, she's Ms. f$^ng Stokely! So her and the delightful Ella Darling signed USR Sword & Sorcery making my personal copy of the game the most heavy metal sword and sorcery game in existence!

I managed to chill out and start counting brownie points, soak in the moment. Up to this point I had run/played numerous games of Road Hog and and helped sell out the convention stock by the bell on Friday (They underestimated my game, Randall said to me.) with the crowds appetite far from satiated. I had gamed seven hours of supers as a player for the first time ever. All my books got signed, Jez Gordon and Ken Hite finished me off at the ennies. I wouldn't believe I relaxed through all that if I hadn't sat right in front of one of the ennies live stream cameras and can watch it anytime I want. Tick tock, tick tock.

The ennies after party for those on the right side of history was on the seventeenth floor of the Midtown Marriot. It was packed with wall to wall fans, industry heavy weights, jovial foreigners and one of the cleanest party vibes I had felt in a while. +Satine Phoenix was amazing and took my congratulations on her gaming projects as graceful as you would expect. All was well in the land of Oz and the munchkins dance on the corpse of the conquered! There was no chance a flame this hot would burn long so I turned from the crowd of party goers to buttonhole Zak. I asked for thirty seconds of Zak's time instead of 2 minutes before and this change of tactic worked. This was it. This was worse than the tongue paralyzed game demo yesterday. I was at the end of my rope and at the end of my mad adventure quest. His right hand started counting off one two three four five one two three four five. I'm seriously getting thirty seconds! I blather through, the pitch delivered. I may have gone past thirty. Zak cut me off around the right time saying “Sold, you sold it!” It was over. The kid in the Captain America shirt telling the room to rock on was worth all the money spent to get here itself. The raging after after party in the Marriot lobby was almost anticlimactic if it wasn't for its brute force awesomeness. +Ken Baumann polymorphed in front of me out of a fourteen year old boy. As genuine, smart and as inciteful a person as you would want to meet. +Mike Evans was justly thumping his chest for his ENie victory. My attempts at photographing the happenings experienced strange anomalies so I later tossed the shots as unusable, as somehow wrong. The geometry was never quite right.  Only a selfie with Jez Gordon survived the arcane energy which wrapped us all. Tick tock, tick tock.

I woke up on a couch in the JW around 8:30 Saturday morning to the bustle of hotel staff and early morning gamers. One was sitting on the end of the couch I crashed on. +Dennis Sutherland was going to play his first ever face to face game of D&D with a real live DM and other players and everything and he couldn't wait. “What edition you going to play?” I asked. “Fifth Edition.” He fired back beaming. “Good version of the game. I've looked at it. Really slick. You're going to have a great time.” “Yeah I can't wait.” He said for the third time.
You don't have a home game?”
No, no one in my town games. I tried but they would rather play video games.”
Have you tried online? Getting into a game online?”
No, no I haven't.”
Can you play Sunday mornings twice a week?”
Well yeah, sure.” With Dennis' eager interest I had him lined out on G+ and part of my community for my regular game. I gave him the link to the free PDF rules and we parted with the assurance he had a seat at my virtual table anytime. All the while I unpacked what my phone had to tell me of last night. It was still early for my second round of “The Hero Instant”, but I still shouldn't have been feeling as crushed as I did. It was because I crossed another mission off my list for Operation GenCon50. It didn't take long when I was packing for the trip to land on what game I was going to bring to GenCon. If given a chance to run a game at the convention it was going to be my game; USR Sword & Sorcery. Fortuitous choice as not only is my rule book now blessed by actual Valkyries it was the only thing I could possibly run at 2 am when I came across three teenagers still up and goofing. They had cards and game boards strewn on the table and furniture. “You guys want to game? Conan flavored rules lite rpg?” I don't know how I sold it, but cocktail napkins in hand I had a mutilated sailor, merchant who had angered a king and a city guard plumbing the depths of the intro adventure included with the game while the night turned to day. They were just at the point when the plucky adventures, blades wet with cultist gore, debated stealing some valuables and fleeing or delving deeper when the wisest of the group cried “Its five in the morning we're going to bed.” Tick tock, tick tock.

Andy's second session of “The Hero Instant” went off without a hitch and I gutted through a three hour game with two other fine role players. Amber was fascinating. She had something. She said what it was in a rapid fire breathless voice. She had Andy explain the nuts and bolts of her pregenerated character by the numbers. Once she grasped all the numbers she was able to breath life into Animus, the ice shifting animal spirit and her strange way of relating melted away. Bill was a software developer I think and he could game the shit out of his pregen. I was lucky to get to use my same character again and we rocked it. Andy is a great Game Master and I thank my girlfriend's granola and Randall's fresh seedless grapes in my pack to give me the fuel to keep up with all the action. The Hero Instant had quick character generation and was able to pull all the super hero styled action I could want. Not running the game I wasn't sure how the initiative system was working, but I did like that the PC's do all the rolling. If attacking you rolled to hit. If you are being attacked you roll your defense to see if you are missed. Smart trick offloading all the rolling on the players. Another GenCon50 mission had now been achieved. Close friendships formed around a three hour game session played to the best of everyone's ability. 

I stumbled back to the Ultra-Pro booth trying to grasp it wasn't morning anymore. My flight didn't leave till 6 the next morning, but I still had to make it to the hotel and put myself together before then. Sleep, while desired would be hard to have. I knew I would be electrified by recent events and my mind would bubble and boil till I flat out shut down.