Friday, March 17, 2017

A Beginner's Guide to GaryCon

I was having a conversation with some friends last night, and they mentioned that there should be a "newbie's" guide to the major gaming conventions -- we were talking about the DCC RPG community because we always have great representation at the various cons. And since I thought it was a great idea (thanks +SGT Dave ) I'm going to share my experiences with the cons that I've managed to attend over the last few years (namely North Texas RPG Con and GaryCon). Since GaryCon is next week, I figure this will be timely for all the folks that are making the trek to the great white north for the first time.

Overview

GaryCon takes place in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin, birthplace of D&D (or at least one of them). It's a convention that Gary Gygax' sons put together to honor their father and they invited the whole damned gaming community!

There are literally hundreds of games going on simultaneously. I'll let you peruse the schedule yourself to figure out what you want to play. Everything from the oldest of the old school (they have at least one sand table) to the newest (lots of story games representation) and the most popular (both D&D and Pathfinder organized play have a sizable presence). The vendor space is smallish, but vibrant.


Travel and Logistics

There are few things to consider with the location that might not be apparent to the first time convention goer: Getting there, the weather, where to stay, and where to eat...

First and foremost -- there is no major airport in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. The closest airports are in Milwaukee (about an hour north) or Chicago (about an hour south). So, unless you have someone willing to schlep your butt to LG, you'll have to rent a car. I don't know if Uber can get you there...or if it would be cost effective. We travel from Austin every year (this will be the third year I'm attending). We flew the first year and rented a car -- and it was good, if a little more expensive than I wanted it to be. Good to have transportation -- the town of Lake Geneva is a nice little resort town. Last year and (planning) this year, we drove from Austin, Texas. It's a hump, but much cheaper than flying my whole gaming clan up there and renting a vehicle big enough to haul them all over the place.

Weather -- If you think: Well, it's late March, the worst of the winter should be over right? That means you live somewhere in the same latitude. In Austin, we're already in the 80's with birds chirping outside and leaves already fully on the trees. In Lake Geneva, however, winter generally still has a stranglehold. This is speaking from two years experience -- the lake was solidly frozen over both years while we were there. Though last year it was starting to melt off. Looking at the forecast this year, it's going to be a balmy high 50's during the day and mid 40's at night, so maybe not too bad this year. But, Rain/Snow Showers are predicted for Thursday (March 30th). Seriously -- if you're from my neck of the woods, that's winter! So, pack accordingly.



Where to Stay -- Looking at it today, there are still rooms available in the Grand Geneva Resort, where the con takes place, though not at the con rate (right now, from Wednesday to Sunday will run you $1000!). We have always stayed offsite. Year 1, we stayed in downtown Lake Geneva at a pretty little resort hotel at a good rate. Last year and this year, we booked an AirBnB at much nicer rate. Of course, you'll need transportation, but I like to actually leave the con and do other stuff, so it's a bonus for me.

Where to Eat -- The food at the Grand Geneva is pretty good -- they always have a Con menu for quick food. But, Lake Geneva has some great little restaurants. There are a few about half-a-mile from the con. Otherwise, you'll need to drive into town (still not that far). My advice: Don't eat every meal at the Con. Take a break, grab some friends, and go hit Sprecher's (German restaurant), Rosati's (cheap pizza joint nearby), or out to Anthony's Steakhouse (expensive, but really good).


Gaming, Gaming, Gaming

Yes, like I said, there's gaming. More gaming than you could possibly participate in. So you have to make your choices count. The big draw for GaryCon, at least for the old school players, is the presence of the "old masters" -- meaning those folks that were around when D&D was in its infancy. Frank Mentzer (of the Mentzer basic set), Tim Kask, Diesel LaForce, and Jeff Dee all generally run games in the old D&D mode. But, there's also a ton of other big names new and old.

My quick and dirty advice for the first-time old school gamer at GaryCon is thus:

Gaming with Uncle Frank is always a pleasure. 
  • Get in a game with one of the old masters, just to get that out of the way. 
  • Get into a tournament game -- doesn't matter what it is (I prefer DCC RPG). You can generally jump in without registration and play for half the day, have a blast. I'm running two tournament games -- one with +Reid San Filippo and +Jarrett Crader (Crawling Under a Broken Moon) and one (off book) with +Eric Hoffman and +Jason Hobbs (Black Powder, Black Magic). 
  • Get at least one session with a game that you played in your youth that you loved, but lost track of. For me that was Star Frontiers, but maybe you played Top Secret, Traveller or Call of Cthulhu, and haven't played for a while. It's great to re-connect with these games of our youth. 
  • Try something new! This is the place to do it. You'll have an enthusiastic game master and players all committed to having a good time. I did this my first year with Shadow of the Demon Lord. It was so new that +Robert Schwalb was still in the midst of the Kickstarter. The damn game funded *while* I was at the table playing it.
  • Play off-book -- There are tons of "unofficial" games going on all the time. We usually cluster in the bar and play successive games of Cults Across America (thank you again +James MacGeorge for introducing that game to me). There's a free-to-play boardgame room and groups getting together for impromptu roleplaying sessions everywhere, all the time. These have been some of the best games I've played.
  • Go meet the aritsts! There are several artists that come to GaryCon to sell prints and originals of their RPG (and other) work. Go meet them! Pick up a print of your favorite cover. Support these folks -- they keep our hobby alive as much as the writers and gaming companies. 
  • Don't schedule yourself games every minute of every day. You'll burn out by the middle of day two and you just won't enjoy yourself. Take a few hours to wander around and meet folks. Go into town and have lunch or dinner. Visit the vendor booths. 

Socialize

Don't think that just because you paid so much and came all this way that you have to spend every minute of every day at a gaming table. I made this mistake at my first gaming convention, and I'll never do it again. There are some fun people at these conventions and everyone seems to be there to have a good time. The Grand Geneva has a small dance club on site, but you can also go into town and visit the local nightlife. It's a small town, so it's not what I would call vibrant, but plenty of places to grab a few new friends and hang out for a couple hours.


My Pitch: The Cultural Exchange

Last year I started a thing I call the Cultural Exchange. On Saturday night, as games are winding down, we gather on the second floor and occupy a few tables. Everyone must bring some food/drink items of their people. We have people from all over the country and the world. It's great to try beers, food, candy, whatever, that I've never encountered before. I prefer to bring some craft/local beers from Austin, but other folks bring Grape Nehi and Moonpies. Either way, we sit around and socialize, talk about the con, and scheme out our next gaming things. Join us there, and bring the foods of your people. I hope this becomes a tradition, because I think it was a big hit last year. 


Wrap up

Anyway -- most of all have fun. You're there to game, but you'll find that you develop a second family if you go to enough of these cons. For my part, I schedule only one or two games these days. Most of my time is spent hanging with my friends and playing off-book. If you see me there, hit me up. We will find something for you to play. 

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

The Journey Truly Begins

Just over a month ago, +Daniel Bishop and +David Fisher came to me and asked if my little publishing collective could take over publishing DCC Adventure Magazine and News. This was a project we collaborated on a few years ago with another publisher and managed to get the first issue produced -- though only in PDF form. I think all three of us looked at that experience as a good one, overall, and I know for my part, I really liked the art and content that we put together for it.

Well, in short order, we turned around an reprint of the first issue, with much expanded content, some new art and layout, and more importantly, a different focus. Or maybe, a truer focus. Yes, the magazine has Adventures. But, it also now has NEWS. And it's news about the community -- third party publishers, local DCC RPG groups, and new products either here or coming soon. And we have some great non-adventure gaming articles specifically focused on the great things about DCC -- Spellburn, classes, monsters, spells, and random tables galore.

All that to say... It's here. It looks great. And it's available to purchase in PDF or Print on RPGNow/DrivethruRPG.

Go get it, if you want to see what the first step in a true DCC community news and adventure magazine run is going to look like. If you already bought the PDF way back when, you'll be surprised by the new content (76 pages of content in an 84 page book).

And we have a lot more coming, but I'll talk about that in another post.


Friday, February 17, 2017

D.A.M.N. Winter 2017 Issue -- Table of Contents and Submission Guidelines

Greetings,

Our first issue of D.A.M.N. magazine is in the can and getting set up for print. While we're waiting, the table of contents page and the submission guidelines are shared below.

Overall, I'm excited about the tone we're setting -- It's third-party publisher/author/fans from cover-to-cover. Got an interview with +Terra Frank about Dungeon Lord, a sneak-peek at +Thorin Thompson's Sky ov Crimson Flame, something exciting coming from +Reid San Filippo, and some general community news. Add to that an adventure and two articles by +Daniel Bishop, two articles by +Stephen Newton, an article by +Julian Bernick, and classic content from the original first issue from me, +Godric McKellan and +Garett Oliver. Wrapped up all nice and pretty with +David Fisher's excellent art.

I may have Stockholm Syndrome, but I think it looks pretty darn good (I resisted).

Submissions for the Spring 2017 Issue -- I'm looking to have all written content in by end of March and all art by April 15th.

I want to reiterate: We need your content. We commission longer pieces, but all the rest (~3,000 words and less) come from you, the community. We also need art! +David Fisher is our principal artist, but we want to feature art from our great community artists (and give David a break -- he's working on like four books right now). Read the submission guidelines closely, and let's get the Spring 2017 issue filled up with great content quickly.

Stay DAMNed,
Paul




Monday, February 06, 2017

It's About DAMNed Time!

Greetings from deep inside the secure Mystic Bull Games facility where we are hard at work with our newest toy -- the DCC Time Machine. Remember back in the halcyon days before you were waiting patiently by the door for your 4th Printing of the DCC Core Rules like a retriever with a bladder infection? Back in that time, there was a mythical adventure magazine for DCC girls, boys and transgenders of all stripes. Oftentimes they would get spanked for even talking about it. Not because it was particularly evil, it's just that their Moms thought they were cussing at the dinner table when they talked about...


That's right kids. Put on your 2013 fashions and rock out to your favorite music from the Obama era, because that da'gone DAMN magazine is back.

Here's the initial plan (which is pretty solid) and the next steps (which are pretty solid) and the future of DAMN magazine (which entirely depends on you).

DAMN Issue 1:: Back in Time Edition

ETA: Mid-March

The first issue of DAMN magazine was released in PDF, but never made it to print. Well, we're going to change all that. We're releasing DAMN #1 with expanded content (see below), an all-new layout, and, more importantly, new FOCUS: We want to report on, support, and publish from 3rd Party DCC RPG publishers, authors, and fans. For this first issue, we give you a taste of that, which hopefully much more to come. 

Table of Contents

  • The Mysterious Valley -- By Daniel J. Bishop -- Travel to the wizard Harhasan's secret valley where he bred monsters from men and animals. And run from these creations! 
  • Forsaken Reavers of Praeder Peak -- by Paul Wolfe -- Drawn to the hellish jungles of Praeder Island by the soul of Skal Silverhand, northron hero and basket case, your party seeks to release his restless dead companions to their final reward. 
  • It's All Greek to Me! Mythical Monsters from a Future Age-- by Daniel J. Bishop -- ***New Content*** In the far future, it's no longer a simple matter to tell magic from science. And these "magical" monsters look a lot like those from Greek legend! 
  • The Snow Queen -- by Garett Oliver -- A Queen of the Elves has lived much longer than even elves should live. And it's really cold here.
  • Articles by Daniel J. Bishop, Godric McKellan, and new content by Stephen "Snake" Newton, Paul Wolfe and the DAMNed Fine News Staff. 
  • All new art by David Fisher! 
  • And other Surprises! 


DAMN Issue 2 :: Ain't No Party Like a Third-Party Party

ETA: Mid-May

This is where we really get focused on our core -- we have a line-up of third-party DCC authors and fans that's going to knock you for a DAMNed loop (never gets old). Expect something along these lines: 
  • Interview with a third-party DCC publisher, author, podcaster, or super-fan
  • DCC News -- Third-party products, crowdfunding announcements and news, Con reports, and the like. 
  • DCC Talk -- That's right, a letters section, so stay tuned for a place to send them. We're going to publish fan letters, answer questions about rules, adventures, and other DCC-related fun. 
  • At least two "long form" adventures (similar to issue 1)
  • Three to five "short form" adventures/encounters (think In the Prison of the Squid Sorcerer). 
  • Art, ART, A R T! 
  • And tons of gameable content. 

The DAMN Future :: Or... It's All in Your Hands

The future of DAMN Magazine is up to you guys. Do you want a regular adventure and news magazine covering this game that we all love? If you do, then there will be a subscription drive and a submission drive -- We need to have the best content and we need to get that content in the hands of every DCC player out there -- and convert a few on on the way. 

Your feedback is always desired -- feel free to leave a comment about DAMN and what you'd like to see in a community magazine. 

Friday, September 09, 2016

The Daemons are Released!


I'm late on this one, but I wanted to trumpet the continued accomplishments of my co-authors on my second professional RPG project: +Daniel Bishop and +David Fisher.


Way back when, we got together with another fellow (who will not be named) and funded an indiegogo campaign for a book of DCC RPG patrons. Months (years) later, all of the rewards had yet to be delivered by the unnamed fellow. No one knows why -- maybe he over-promised without knowing how much things would cost, or maybe there was some "crowdfunding curse" involved (you know... every undelivered crowdfunding effort spurns some tragedy, madness, or otherwise will of the gods that prevent delivery), or maybe he planned to use the money for something else entirely. From my perspective, I only felt bad because these new friends of mine that plopped down their hard-earned gold pieces for some treasure that I'd had a part in, never got what they paid for. (Full disclosure, the unnamed fellow never fully settled up with me, either).

Anyway -- all that bad stuff behind us -- the badass David Fisher managed to get the license for the physical version of Angels, Daemons and Beings Between. And, along with some new content from me, Daniel and David, Mr. Fisher created an awesome new cover image for the book -- Dagon!

The important thing is, there are three versions of this book -- the hardcover, with Dagon, the softcover with Dagon, and the "classic" cover -- Hecate, also in softcover. I personally am not a "collect them all" kind of guy, but the great thing is, you have options -- the softcovers are a bit cheaper than the hardcover, and you have the variety of covers to choose from.

The main reason I mention this is that it's not readily apparent on OBS that there's three different versions.... Anyway -- here they are:

Hardcover Dagon version
Softcover Dagon version
Softcover Hecate version
Enjoy, and as always, let us know what you think of the book.



















Monday, September 05, 2016

The Battle of Ravencrest Keep -- Dumb-assed Mass Combat for your B/X, OSR Games

Lusted for this book at aged 14-19
I'm a boring fucking gamer. It's true. When I was a kid, I had the following books/supplements for D&D/AD&D: Basic Set (Moldvay), AD&D Player's Handbook, AD&D Monster Manual, and (eventually) AD&D Fiend Folio. By the time I toodled off to the Army, I had Oriental Adventures, the "Survival Guides" and Unearthed Arcana -- basically trading in my McDonalds and Wal-Mart paychecks for D&D stuff. Never had a DMG. Had a couple of modules (I3-6 and some Dragonlance, which I never played or ran).

In most of that time, I had Keep on the Borderlands as the sole module for gaming fun. If I didn't write it, we were playing at the Keep. It's still one of my favorite modules, not because it's so well written or anything, but because it's completely open-ended and detailed enough that you can take it and make it your own.

For the last four or five years, I've run a home game with the Keep as a centerpiece. I've run this area with AD&D, B/X, Castles and Crusades, Rules Cyclopedia and DCC RPG. The campaign area contains +Greg Gillespie's Barrowmaze Complete content -- towns and the Barrowmaze -- as well as some elements of the U1-3 series, T1-4 series, B3, B4, B5, A1-4, +Michael Curtis' Stonehell dungeon  etc. And a healthy helping of stuff that I've developed (and the characters have never gotten to... to my dismay).

Total KotBL Nerd... I admit it.
But always, the Keep is the centerpiece. It's usually where the characters start. The reason, I think (thinking psychologically) is because MY characters always started at the Keep. Whether I was running a game for my sister and her best friend (they were halfling thieves that were more concerned with shopping for Member's Only jackets than adventuring), my Dad and my uncle (my Dad still gripes about how the Provisioner tried to chisel him on torches), or myself... yes, I admit it -- I was a masturbatory gamer. I solo'ed Keep on the Borderlands and later the I3-6 series...several times. In case it wasn't obvious, I lived in the sticks and my gaming circle often numbered in the single digits (often the number was less than 2 and more than 0).





Great adventure, even though it's 2nd Edition! 
Anyway, I digress. My cousin suggested that we get a game together on Saturday (he was the first person I gamed with back in 1982 with the Moldvay Basic Set...in the Keep on the Borderlands -- hey +Mike W. Erwin why did you kill the "traders" again?). He was sick of the 1st -> Dead slog that the home game is often plagued with. We went to see Star Trek on Wednesday and he dropped that he wants to play 12th level characters. So, I should "come up with something." Fucker. Of course, I was like "sure, buddy. No sweat."

I combed through my collection - looking for the perfect one-shot 12th level adventure. Yeah -- don't. It doesn't exist. I was all set to run Mud Sorcerer's Tomb by Mike Shel (Dungeon Magazine #37). I read through it and I wasn't totally sold. I dug through Dungeon Mags until I found Kingdom of the Ghouls (Dungeon Magazine #70) by  +Wolfgang Baur.  This adventure is...interesting. True ghouls. A "human centipede" undead battering ram. Drow, Ilithids and other powerful underworlders on the run from a marauding ghoul army. Fun.
bother looking.

Then I realized something about the home campaign.

One of the parties early on had gone to a lonely barrow near Ravencrest Keep (KotBL) and found a black metal sword. Later, they'd traveled to Barrowmaze and released Varghoulis, the Death Knight. Who promptly took the sword from the cold dead hands of a 2nd level character and marched his undead army off to the north -- stopping at the Temple of Evil Chaos (Area K) to subjugate the evil clerics there to the worship of Nergal. Then, his army proceeded off to a little known shrine of the Cock God to resurrect the fucker.

Tada! Merge. Squish. Develop an on-the-fly mass combat system. BAM! I had the game.

So, the situation was that fifteen 12th level characters are alerted through various means that the undead are on the rise in the area of the borderlands -- big bad juju is on the way. A quick hit through Wizard Dawn B/X Character Generator got me the characters. A three hour development session got me a mass combat system with PC interaction built in.

BAM!  Ghoul armies led by True Ghouls, and bolstered with Flying Ghouls, zombies and Damned
No skeletons in this one, but cool image; Don't search for human centipede...
Undead Battering Rams attacked. I had ghouls climbing out of a sinkhole in the keep plaza. Ghouls coming through the western wall in the inner keep, and the main gate and inner gatehouse in ruins by the end.

There were a few hitches (I kept forgetting to hit one of the wizards with an individual attack, in order to disrupt a well-placed Wall of Fire spell) -- but the game was a success. The players were begging for more. Also, the Wall of Fire spell really sucks in B/X. And Dispel Evil is really powerful!

But, alas, my beloved Keep on the Borderlands lies in ruin. Only 13 of the original keep defenders remained -- including the Castellan and a few of his lieutenants -- and seven F1 men-at-arms (I managed to kill three of the 12th level characters). With the remaining residents of the keep now refugees heading for Ironguard Motte, the fate of the keep and the characters hangs in the balance.  +Brenda Wolfe  (ever the mercenary) thinks that the keep now belongs to the characters... she still doesn't understand the political situation...but she soon will. A gaping hole to the underworld lies open in the main keep plaza (where the fountain used to be) -- beckoning for the characters to find the source of the ghoulish invasion.

Anyway, all that to say that I have a mass combat system that seemed to work pretty well. It was inspired partially by Kingdom of the Ghouls (thanks +Wolfgang Baur!) but modified to be a bit more detailed, account for PC individual actions, and have a more squad-level feel.

And here it is -- let me know if you use it and if you have edits. I think it worked out pretty well, but I'll let you be the judge.

Dumb-Assed Easy Mass Combat Rules for B/X and Other OSR Games

Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Gamer ADD Wins Again


For me it strikes when I see a thing -- a movie, a blog post, an image... or read a book. And then, I'm in the throes of it. Regardless of the intensity of the latest RPG project that's sitting on my desk waiting for completion, I can't resist the draw. 

So in my first post since February, I will appropriately discuss some of the ADD that's seized my attention (and prevented blog posts...among other things). 

Whitebox Hacks for Various Things

It's a system you can't resist tinkering with. 

The Princess Blade


I have a late-Tokugawa Japanese thing... I may have mentioned it before. While I was unemployed earlier this year, I did what every good unemployed bum should do: Spent my unemployment monies on liquor, GaryCon, and fancy clothes and laid around the house watching Samurai movies. Lady Snowblood did it for me -- I immediately embarked on The Princess Blade -- A Chanbara hack for Whitebox S&W. Probably a mini-game, but I've got so much written for this thing, that I can resist releasing it either as an actual product or just a free-fun thing. Chanbara-style RPG'ing has always had a special place in my heart. I'll post a few things from the manuscript later this week. 

Twilight 1948


I blame +Eric Hoffman for this one. I've had a semi-developed WWII setting since the early 2000's, and never got to run/play it for anyone. It's based on the Jedburgh missions, late-1944 in Occupied France. There's an alternate history twist once the initial stage of the campaign unfolds that tries to mimic the look/feel of Twilight 2000, but with WWII-era equipment and political situations. The Amazon series Man in a High Castle didn't help me resist this one. I'm running a playtest with +Alex Perucchini+Jason Sholtis+Jason Hobbs+Cody Mazza and the aforementioned Hoffman. The rules are dead simple from the player's perspective. From the GM's it's a toolbox for building a mission-based sandbox in occupied enemy territory. I think it may be portable to different genres, and I liberally stole from +Paolo Greco's ideas with Gangs & Bullshit (further inspiration while at GaryCon. 

DCC RPG

It's my system of love at the moment. Natural fits here. 

Dark Ages of DCC


I did a thing because someone else did a thing (scroll down to Dark Ages D&D posts. Fucker. I immediately re-tooled the Seven Saxons -- old d20 adventure by Bad Axe Games -- to a DCC funnel extravaganza for my invading Viking 0-levels. 

From there, I let it lie a bit, but now I'm back consuming research materials and writing. More stuff on this one to come. I'll post some of my stuff on this one. It's going to be fun, I think. I'm thinking a West Marches style recurring game online, if I can swing it. More news later. 







In-Flight Actual Projects

And I still have Ketsuin, the DCC-ified fantasy version of a late-classical era Japan. +David Fisher is hard at work on art for it. Expect an announcement soon. 

And the re-tool of Angels, Daemons and Beings Between. But you already knew about that one. 

So, gamer ADD has me in its clutches, in addition to a weekly B/X game, a weekly DCC game, and a bi-weekly Operation Unfathomable game (Whitebox S&W with a +Jason Sholtis twist). But, I wouldn't trade it for anything. Great day to be alive and a gamer!