Wednesday, June 30, 2010


Saturday, August 14 - Anaheim, California

UPDATE: We had a great time! Thanks to all participants!  

This "con" is not actually a formal convention - it is  a group of old school gamers hanging out in a rented clubhouse. The details I present here are distilled from the Dragonsfoot thread and email correspondence, and should be considered tentative. If you are interested in attending PLEASE RSVP a spot in the session(s) by leaving a Comment here or emailing me - this will be incredibly helpful for the DMs.
Please read below for further details on location, parking, food, etc. This is a free event!

We'll also be doing a book swap! Bring a box of books that you think people would be willing to trade for, and hopefully we'll all walk away with new reading material.

NOTE: I will continually update this page with details, so you can check back here periodically. More sessions may be added and game RSVPs may change.

DM: T. Foster
DESCRIPTION: I'm going to be running the "Tomb of Rahotep," the finale section of Gary Gygax's Necropolis, which I will be freely converting to 1E AD&D from the original Dangerous Journeys version (there was also a d20 version released by Necromancer Games). The adventure is for high-level (up to 14) characters and is, essentially, "Tomb of Horrors on Egyptian-flavored steroids" -- a pretty much sadistic puzzle-dungeon that Gygax was proud of as the most difficult thing he ever wrote (and which I had the honor of playing in under him in a couple convention/playtest sessions back in the 80s, so I'll be doing my best to capture some of that same feel (only with a lot less unfiltered cigarettes and not as many colorful anecdotes about sharing hottubs with Hollywood starlets and what assholes the Blume brothers are ;))). I'm providing pre-gen characters.
  1. Thorkhammer
  2. wheggi
  3. jallison86
  4. wheggi's stepson
  5. Cimmerian
  6. Bedivere
  7. The Shaman
  8. Rick M.
  9. Gary P.
  10. open

DM: Tavis Allison 
DESCRIPTION: Original Dungeons & Dragons (1974 Whitebox, 3 "little brown books" plus house rules). "Night of the Walking Wet" by Paul Jaquays is an underappreciated classic in its own right & a mini-campaign setting for the other adventures presented in the early issues of the Dungeoneer fanzine. This exploration will set forth in a different corner of its sandbox than the previous all-night run at GaryCon II, and will take place a week after the events of that session (and likely a week before its continuation at GaryCon III). Players are welcome to make new characters beforehand using the guidelines here; to bring existing characters from any game system, who will be adapted to fit in to a party of roughly 6th level OD&D adventurers; or to roll up characters on the spot.
RESERVED SEATS: 6 preferred, 2 alternates possible.
  1. cyclopeatron
  2. Javi
  3. Staples
  4. Kirk (Telecanter)
  5. Kirk's friend 
  6. Alexy (monk)
  7. Nick Bielik
  8. open

    AFTERNOON SESSION (2pm-6pm):
    DM: Joseph Goodman (Goodman Games)
    DESCRIPTION:  Dungeon Crawl Classics. Atop a craggy peak overlooking the teeming ports, the brilliant emerald tower has watched generations of kings rise and pass. This Citadel of the Emerald Sorcerer goes undisturbed by the king’s subjects, who fear the flapping monstrosities that descend from the dusk – as well as the king’s edict. But you’re not a king’s man, and many a fell beast has fallen to your sword ere tonight’s adventure. Surely a fortune in gemstones awaits you in the Citadel of the Emerald Sorcerer! Join the continuing public playtest of the Dungeon Crawl Classics Role Playing Game with this new level 2 adventure, introducing some of the new spellcasting rules employed by the game.
    1. Rick M.
    2. Gary P.
    3. Louis (Jon Archer)
    4. Todd
    5. Karina
    6. Joel A.
    AFTERNOON SESSION (2pm-6pm):
    DM: Bobby "Cyclopeatron"
    DESCRIPTION:  Gamma World (1st edition). MUTANTS OF METAL. It's hard work being in a mutated heavy metal band touring the post-apocalyptic Gamma World. Getting gigs, pleasing fans, keeping your keytar synth in good repair, and fighting rival heavy metal bands and aliens - it's all in a day's work. Pregens will be provided.
    1. Brunomac (lead vocals)
    2. David B. (electronic guitar)
    3. Brent W. (drummer)
    4. Joshua O. (synth)
    5. Nick Bielik
    6. Banjo Chris 
    7. Troy Z.

    AFTERNOON SESSION (2pm-6pm):
    DM: Kirk "Telecanter"
    DESCRIPTION:  Swords & Wizardry (OD&D clone)
    RESERVED SEATS: 3 to 6 players preferred.
    1. Staples
    2. David Keeton 
    3. Mobad Deathprong
    4. Kirk's Friend 
    5. open
    6. open

      EVENING SESSION (~7pm):
      DM: Chris "Cimmerian"
      DESCRIPTION:  Urutsk: World of Mystery.
      NOTE: This session might be canceled due to a potential work conflict for the DM. If this happens, Bedivere will instead run an AD&D session.
      1. Bedivere
      2. Kirk (Telecanter)
      3. Kirk's friend
      4. Tavis A.
      5. Mobad Deathprong
      6. open

      EVENING SESSION (~7pm):
      DM: Kevin "Brunomac"
      DESCRIPTION: Original D&D. Whitebox by-the-book. Roll up characters and go for it!
      1. Fred. C. Dobbs 
      2. Gary
      3. Staples 
      4. Mat
      5. Alexy (monk)
      6. open 

      MINI-CON LOCATION: The Mini-Con will be a few blocks from the Anaheim Convention Center. On this Google Map aim for the big clubhouse near the pool on the North side of Orangewood, to the left of the pointer:

      View Larger Map

      Since I'm so close to Disneyland and the convention center, the streets in the area are marked as resident permit parking only. Enforcement is fairly light, but there's no need to risk getting a ticket.

      There is guest parking within the Sherwood Village community in any open, marked space (it's pretty obvious - the streets in the community are all either red or marked parking spaces). There's usually plenty, but I've never had 30 guests over before. I also have 4 resident hang tag permits that will allow parking on Orangewood right next to the clubhouse that I can give to people I know - especially anyone bringing tables and chairs or with lots to unload. These would likely go to Tony F, Jeff Allison, and perhaps Cimm, T.Foster, Shaman, Thork, or Wheggi (whoever gets there first, or whoever gives a compelling argument as to why they need it).

      I know people are coming from all over, but if it’s possible to carpool, that would help.

      Tables and Chairs
      The clubhouse has chairs for 20 and tables for 2 games, and a counter top and refrigerator for food. I additionally have a card table and chairs for the book swap, snacks, or whatever we need.

      It looks like we’ll need another table for a game session, and 8-10 chairs.

      If everyone brings their favorite snacks and drinks there always seems to be enough to share.

      We were planning a bbq. There are a lot of people involved now, so I’m not sure how long bbq-ing for 20+ will take. We have 2 large gas bbqs outside the clubhouse. I think we can still do it if we have multiple people manning the grills as long as we limit it to something simple like burgers and dogs, but we just don’t have the space or time to cook spare ribs or whole chickens or stuff like that. We need to coordinate buns, condiments, and any veggies we might want. I don’t know if everyone should bring their own meat to allow for tastes, veggie substitutes, kosher, or whatever, or if we should pool that too. Any suggestions?

      If you must bring something else to grill it must be as quick and simple as burgers or hotdogs.

      Because there's 3 sessions instead of 2 like before, we also need a lunch. There is all manner of fast food, pizza, and restaurants in the area – obtaining food shouldn’t be a problem. The clubhouse also has a microwave.

      Tuesday, June 29, 2010

      Dendriton Tube

      The party has been traveling for days, trying to reach the exit of Dendriton Tube. This is the view looking back down The Tube. In the distance you can see the starrily luminescent underground sea over fifty leagues down. Note the party's camp on the left wall.

      Friday, June 25, 2010

      Weird and Awesome Old D&D Ads

      These ads are beautifully cyclopeatronic!
      They are from the late 70s / early 80s Holmes Basic Set "Blue Box" era.
      They make me want to play Dungeons & Dragons!


      These were recently posted on Dragonsfoot - thanks to Loscha and Zenopus76 for finding them!

      Sanity in D&D

      P.S. Mangus’ cthuloid approach to D&D got me to thinking about how in the world D&D characters maintain their sanity through all the gore and weirdness and terror they experience. I would certainly have some sort of PTSD after seeing my buddy’s face getting chewed off by a ghoul. While D&D characters are usually considered to be hardier than average peasants, it would be an interesting shift in the dynamics of D&D if there were some sort of psychological fallout from strolling through a supernatural meatgrinder every week.

      One option for including a sanity metric in D&D is to simply add a Sanity attribute like in Call of Cthulhu. But, in order to preserve the simplicity and spirit of old school D&D, I might argue for using Wisdom as a measure of sanity. Wisdom is a sadly underutilized attribute anyway, why not do something fun with it? Potentially madness-inducing situations could call for a roll against Wisdom -  roll your Wisdom or under using a typical bell-curve d6 attribute check:

      Somewhat creepy: 2d6
      Pretty freaking nasty: 3d6
      Brain meltingly horrific: 4d6

      Rolling over your Wisdom would result in losing a point of Wisdom. To adjust for experiential adventure-hardiness, a character's level can be subtracted from the dice roll.

      Once a PC goes below 4 Wisdom stressful situations would induce side effects similar to a Confusion spell. If Wisdom gets to 0 the PC goes permanently insane. To soften the effects a bit, Wisdom lost in the dungeons could be regained through some DM-determined period of R&R after the adventure.

      There are a lot of ways DMs could house rule the effects of horror-induced Wisdom decay. Fear? Confusion? Paralysis? A psychotic reaction each time a Wisdom point is lost, or maybe only when certain lower Wisdom thresholds are crossed...? Interesting to think about.

      Of course this would all change the flavor of the game tremendously, and bring it more in line with the nihilistic tone of Call of Cthulhu where most PCs end up dead or insane. I'll be the first to say this would not be to the taste of many traditional D&D players. It would make sandbox-type "elective adventuring" very difficult - PCs would have to be on life-threatening do-or-die missions to justify the risk of madness. For this reason it would probably not be desirable to include a sanity mechanic into my own campaigns at this time - it would make the players too timid I think.

      Or maybe D&D PCs should be assumed to be insane from the start? Who else would wander into a place like The Tomb of Horrors?


      Thursday, June 24, 2010

      California Game Blogs

      A few days ago A Paladin in Citadel asked if readers like how he keeps separate blogrolls for Canadian vs. non-Canadian blogs. This got me thinking about the game blogs emanating forth from within my own major geopolitical region: The California Republic. Off the top of my head, the list would include (please let me know if I missed any):

      Castle Dragonscar
      Cimmerian Chronicles
      Destination Unknown
      Dungeon Mistress
      Frothy Friar
      Playing D&D With Porn Stars
      Telecanter's Receding Rules
      Temple of Demogorgon
      The Moldy Vale 

      This is a pretty good number with a definite bias towards Southern California. While this regional richness is interesting, it's also sadly irrelevant because it doesn't represent any sort of real gaming scene. I've only met two of these other bloggers in person: Celestial (Dungeon Mistress, my niece) and Cimmerian (Cimmerian Chronicles). Unlike Paladin, who groups together blogs sprinkled across a vast area, a lot of us California bloggers apparently live within an hour or two of each other - especially in SoCal.

      It would be great if at least the SoCal contingent (and others in close proximity) could organize to attend a local con some time to hang out and roll dice! SoCal Old School Mini Con III is coming up Aug 14 and  Gateway 2010 is coming up on Labor Day Weekend (Sep 3-6), it would be good fun to have a bloggomaniac meeting of the minds and achieve critical mass to run and promote some cool RPGs!

      Wednesday, June 23, 2010

      Please Read The Princess Planet Web Comic

      Tim Sievert, the artist who produces the awesome D&D-inspired web comic The Intrepideers just pointed out this kindred effort by artist Brian McLachlan: The Princess Planet. I highly recommend this web comic to anyone who rolls 20-sided dice! Here's a little taste (you must love the green devil face door)!


      Weird Body Armor From J.C. Penney

      Make a fashion statement with your choice of armor!
      Air Jeans look smart when matched with a salmon turtleneck!

      Tuesday, June 22, 2010

      Why Gamma World Wizards Love Radioactive Cocaine

      For the last few weeks I’ve been working to better incorporate heavy metal music into Gamma World. I’ve settled on creating a series of episodic adventures where the players are a mutated heavy metal band on tour. In each episode the band faces different challenges like fighting other rock bands or space aliens, or questing for better instruments (they start out with broken Ovation electro-acoustics and can work their way up to fusion-powered keytar synthesizers), radioactive drugs, mutated groupies, and/or receptive audiences. I’ve actually put a bit of work into this, and the first episode is now ready to roll!


      It’s important to mention that in this game heavy metal musicians may be wizards. Specifically, they may be magic point-based Oranjian Wizards like I described a few posts ago. The problem with this, of course, is how deal with the level/spell-casting advancement issue when there are no levels in Gamma World. Well…. heavy metal wizards can increase their magic power by snorting that rare rock n’ roll ambrosia: radioactive cocaine.

      Whenever a wizard does a few lines of glow-in-the-dark coke they immediately experience dope magic and permanently gain 1d6 magic points. Why work hard for experience points to level up your magic when you can taste the magic through a tightly rolled confederate dollar? This is seriously powerful magic, yessss!

      Any rockers, including wizards, that get high on radioactive cocaine must dust off their d12 and roll for an effect:

      1. Overdose! Make constitution check or go unconscious for 1d4 hours!
      2. It’s cut with Clorox! 1d6 damage!
      3. My body heaves! Gain one new randomly selected physical mutation.
      4. My brain burns! Gain one new randomly selected mental mutation.
      5. Stand up for Exciter! Voice gains heavy metal falsetto ability.
      6. Rock on! All damage for the next 3 hours is cut in half (round down).
      7. Instant moustache! Rapid hair growth for one day.
      8. Neogenetic glamor! Skin gains sparkling luster like sequins or metallic spandex.
      9. Hard core! Skin becomes black leather. AC reduced by 1. Resistance to road rash.
      10. Halfordian awakening! Sexual orientation changes.
      11. Transex transmutation! Physical gender changes.
      12. I am now ready to party! +2d6 HP for 1 day.


      Friday, June 18, 2010

      Are Old School Gaming Blogs Dying Out?

      Some recent forum and blog posts have asked if the interest in blogging about old school gaming is dying out. They cite the explosion of blog activity 1-2 years ago, and the current problem of crickets chirping on their "Blogs I'm Following" lists. Explanations advanced for this problem include that interest in old school roleplaying is dying out or maybe that the old standby bloggers are focusing on gaming instead of blogging.

      Well, I just want to say that I have no idea what these people are talking about. I make an effort to keep up with newer blogs and my "Blogs I'm Following" list is packed with great new posts every day. I think the main problem is that some folks aren't keeping up with things, while the scene is moving ahead and natural turnover is occurring.

      Yes, many of the older and/or established blogs I've always looked forward to reading have significantly slowed or gone quiet (eg. Sham's Grog n' Blog, sword +1, Eiglophian Press, Sickly Purple Death Ray, Vaults of Nagoh, Mandragora/Thool, Rust Monster Ate My Sword, How to Start a Revolution in 21 Days or Less, etc.) I think this is natural - most people's interests will evolve, or real life kicks in and takes priority.

      However, even though many great blogs have gone quiet, another crop of bloggers has been churning out excellent material, including From the Sorcerer's Skull, A Paladin in Citadel, Telecanter's Receding Rules, The Mule Abides, Tales From the Flaming Faggot, Land of NOD, Grand Tapestry, Planet Algol, Joethelwayer, Swords Against the Outer Dark, etc., etc. The list goes on and on - just look at the blogroll to the right. If anything, there's TOO MUCH going on right now and it's hard to keep up. That's not even mentioning the spectacular sustained output of the highest visibility blogs like Jeff's Gameblog and Grognardia.

      And the most beautiful thing about the old school gaming blogosphere right now? It's refreshingly free of the posturing and drama that have plagued it in the past. A lot of the energy is being focused on creative endeavors, not rehash and cross-blog-referencing.

      My analysis of the situation? Things are better than ever. Natural turnover, new faces, new ideas, more sophisticated posts, larger numbers of followers across all blogs... I'm dealing with overload right now, not crickets chirping.

      Check out this old school gaming blog list compiled by the the excellent Ancient Vaults and Eldritch Secrets blog. You could spend days reading through all of these!

      Wednesday, June 16, 2010

      A Simple Spell Point System for OD&D

      After playing Tunnels & Trolls a few weeks ago I was inspired to draw up a simple spell point system for spell-casting in D&D. In T&T spell casters spend and slowly regain spell-casting points as the game progresses.

      First of all I want to say that I love the Vancian Magic paradigm of classic D&D, and I have no desire to alter the original system. Therefore, I present this homebrew spell point system as a new magic user character class - The Oranjian Wizard - which can be played alongside by-the-book Vancian magic users:

      The basic idea is that Oranjian Wizards have a seventh Magic Points (MP) attribute which is determined by the character's level. MPs are spent to cast spells. The cost of casting a spell is determined by the spell's level. MPs are recharged every turn at a rate determined by the wizard's level:

      So, consider... Given that a first-level spell costs 6 MPs, after an hour of in-game time (i.e. six 10-minute turns),  the MPs will be recharged enough to cast another first-level spell. Obviously, it takes longer to recharge for high-level spells. Hit points may be spent in place of MPs to cast spells. As well, extra MPs may be generated by permanently spending 1 point of Intelligence for 10 MPs.

      Also, the normal rule applies that any spells cast MUST be in the wizard's spellbook.

      Further options:

      •    MPs may be used for other non-spell casting purposes like ability checks and/or saves or operating certain magical devices.

      •    Some magic items may affect spell casting costs, alter MP recharge rates, etc.

      •    Ability scores may modify MPs (eg. high intelligence might increase number of MPs).

      •    The DM may define unique casting costs for specific spells. There may even be versions of spells that have identical effects, but different casting costs. For example, a version of Sleep that costs 4 instead of 6 would be highly sought after.

      •    Some spell effects may be scaled up when more magic points are spent.

      •    Additional armor types may be allowed, resulting in a penalty in maximum MPs or MP recharge rate.

      •    The MP recharge rate may be increased while the wizard sleeps.

      •    Some environments may block, retard, or enhance MP recharging.

      •    MP recharge rate does not increase in wizards of advanced level. This would significantly decrease the power of high-level wizards.

      Tuesday, June 15, 2010

      WyrdCon: I Was LARPing With Larry Niven. What Did YOU Do Last Weekend?

      Last weekend was the first ever WyrdCon, which was totally devoted to LARPing. Until last weekend I was almost completely ignorant of the LARP scene – I had never LARPed before, and, while I’ve been curious to try, it has never really been high on my list of priorities. When I learned that WyrdCon was going to be literally a few blocks from my house I decided it would be a perfect opportunity to give it a shot. I participated to some degree in four LARP games. The games I was involved with represented a pretty wide spectrum of LARP styles and I think offered a good glimpse into the genre. Here’s a rundown of the different sessions I participated in, and how I would personally categorize them :

      Starship Valkyrie – AWESOME STYLE: This was one of the most amazing gaming experiences I’ve had in a long time! Starship Valkyrie was a highly intense simulation of being a crewmember of a starship. I really felt like I was part of the bridge crew on an episode of Star Trek or BSG!

      Picture a large open penthouse suite in the Hilton transformed into the interior of a starship. There was a bridge area with a huge plexiglass hexmap/star chart and console stations for navigation, ship weapons, scanners, and communications. For communications there was a large flat-screen TV with a Skype connection to another hotel room where some players were on another disabled starship. In other parts of the main suite were consoles for things like sick-bay, engineering, science labs, etc. There was also a table set up in one corner to handle off-ship starfighter battles using a referee-run card-game mechanic designed by the GM. The GM had obviously put a ton of time into designing this game and hand-building the console stations, most of which had electronic timers and card-slots with damage and repair information, etc. Each player received a tiny booklet with a description of their character, including what they were skilled in and what consoles they were able to operate. I counted around 25 players, 3 NPCs, 2 assistant GMs, and 1 main GM.

      The game mechanics were brilliant. At its core it played a lot like a cooperative boardgame (eg. Pandemic, Space Alert, or Shadows Over Camelot). Different players and/or teams had different assigned duties, and were forced to self-assemble into functional crews based on their expertise. The game was very intense as we were trying to deal with emergencies as the captain, a player, was trying to collect information and decide what commands to give in light of time and resource limitations. At one point we sent an away team to another disabled starship in another hotel room, and stayed in contact using the Skype connection. One of the best parts about the game is that it didn't REQUIRE people to take on goofy characters or accents - you could pretty much just be yourself and get into the game as a simulation.

      It was beautiful! I'm dying to play again! I'm kicking myself because I didn't bring my camera to the session - I had no idea it was going to be as cool as it was! The GM / designer was a fellow called  Christian Brown who is associated with Enigma Live Game Lab, which sprung out of the UCLA sci-fi society. After the game I contacted Christian to see if he'd want to run a game for some of us later this summer. He said YES! Awesome! We're tentatively aiming for an August game here in Orange County - any of you blog readers who might be interested in joining in let me know!

      Vampire: The Masquerade – RPG Style: I’m embarrassed to admit I’d never played Vampire before, despite it being one of the most popular and influential RPGs of the last 20 years. Although I’m personally not into the gothic vampire aesthetic too much, I really wanted to try this game. What better chance than to play in a session refereed by the original designer himself – Mark Rein-Hagen? Joining a nighttime game run by the designer was both awesome and horrible. It was awesome because he spent forever talking about the complex background of the game and helping us design characters. It was horrible because he spent forever talking about the complex background of the game and helping us design characters. I was really surprised he didn’t come prepared with pregens, a level-one no-no for con game referees. It was almost two hours before we actually got to start playing the game. After about 30 minutes of actual playing my companions were totally overwhelmed and burned out, so we skipped out of the game early.

      I would like to say that I thought it was a great experience, however. Rein-Hagen was an excellent storyteller and narrator, and the players were very intensely into the game. If my companions had not wanted to leave, I would have stayed all night to play. The game system was definitely more like a traditional RPG, where everyone had a character sheet with different ability scores and specializations. Conflicts were resolved with a combination of ability point comparisons and spending, and paper/rock/scissors.

      Another cool note about this session was that Larry Niven sat in on the first part of the game! Since I was a kid he’s been one of my favorite sci-fi authors. He was basically silent the whole time – he seems like a pretty quiet guy – but it was awesome to meet the man. I couldn’t resist weakening into a compliment-slathering fanboy and getting a picture with him…

      Pieces of Hate – Combat LARP: This was basically a bunch of people in costumes hitting each other with foam swords. It was good goofy fun, even if the roleplaying and story elements of the game were paper thin. We started in a dark room that was set up like the deck of a sailing ship. NPCs portraying water and wind elementals were running around the outside of the deck trying to hit us with foam weapons and bags of rice (spells), and all of us PCs were trying to reach over the side walls of the ship to do the same to them. Eventually the ship “landed” and we transferred to another room with a cavern set up where our party battled a bunch of kobolds, and after that, with scary magical demons pouring out of a magical strobe-light portal. This last battle took place in a pretty big ballroom, and it was fun organizing team combat maneuvers. There was a really simple rule system (NERO) covering how to score hits and keep track of hit points. It was definitely a lot of fun and a pretty good physical workout as well. I’d surely do it again, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to get into combat LARPing as a hobby or use up future convention time I could otherwise spend playing real RPGs.

      Messina - Cosplay Style: I think this pretty well represented the stereotype of LARPing I've always had in my mind. It was basically a bunch of people in random costumes, including elves, steampunks, goth vampires, etc. running around, hamming it up with goofy fake accents, playing jenga, and basically having a no-holds-barred geekout party. I definitely respect this and think it’s cool and fun, but my companions and I had a hard time getting into the spirit, so we left pretty quickly.

      Monday, June 14, 2010

      Cool Old D&D Poster I Found

      Here's a picture of a beautiful old D&D poster I found while cleaning out my closet. This poster dates from 1982 and was promotional material for Mattel's Dungeons & Dragons Computer Labyrinth Game, which I owned and enjoyed thoroughly back in the day. I love the dragon art on the poster, which is highly reminiscent of an old Ballantine Adult Fantasy paperback cover. I've had this poster since I was a kid, although I don't recall exactly where I got it...

      I had a jam-packed weekend of superfun gaming at WyrdCon I, including a run-in with Larry Niven! I'll write up a report shortly!

      Thursday, June 10, 2010

      SoCal Old School Mini-Con III: August 14!

      It's official! There's going to be an informal old school RPG day / grill-out on Saturday, August 14. It will be at a clubhouse in Anaheim near Disneyland. The event will be hosted by Bedivere.

      This will be a small and personal event with probably only 2-3 tables running. The focus is going to be on old TSR games like A/D&D, Boot Hill, and others. I am quite excited that tavis of the excellent NYC-based Mule Abides blog may attending. According to threads at Dragonsfoot and Knights and Knaves Alehouse, other blog/forum personalities that have tentatively expressed interest in attending include Cimmerian (Cimmerian Chronicles), brunomac (Temple of Demogorgon), T. Foster, Wheggi, and grodog (Allan Grohe), amongst several others.

      An invitation is open to anyone who's interested in old school RPGs, including new players. Mark your calendar!

      I'll post more details as they come...

      Wednesday, June 9, 2010

      Cyclopeatron's Dungeon Home c. 1986

      Last weekend I was digging through some of the boxes of crap I've accumulated over the years. I found a sheaf of artwork and stories from when I was 11-12 years old (1986-1987). One of the funniest things in the stash was this Dream Dungeon map I made. Sadly, the plans for the compound are incomplete, but some aspects of it are fairly well-developed:


      "Cybergraph Stadiam" - I believe this is supposed to be a large stadium for playing holographic Atari and Nintendo games.

      "Gaurds" - Of course, a crack corps of guards should always be on watch to protect my comic book collection from invaders! I especially like the bathroom with the two toilets - perhaps one is a bidet?

      Carl's Jr. - Across the hall from the guardroom is a Carl's Jr. where the guards can get fried zucchini with ranch dressing 24/7. Keeps up morale.

      Secret Comic Book Room - In the back corner of the library is a secret door to the best comic book collection in the universe. Note the gigantic bean bag in the middle of the comic collection to recline upon while reading Doctor Strange or ROM Spaceknight.

      Dungeon With Pet Dragon - Of course! You can even see the manacles on the wall!

      Stables - Stables preferred over a garage because (1) horses are cooler than cars, and (2) it's illegal for 11-year-olds to drive in California.

      Monday, June 7, 2010

      Gamma World: Mutation Decks and Gamex Session Report

      A little over a week ago I ran my Gamma World one-shot “Floating Castle of the Wasp Women” at Gamex 2010. It was cool - I had eight players sprawled over two tables, and they were a funny and animated bunch. Most of them had played Gamma World before, so running the game was a snap.

      I saw my main challenge in planning the game as preserving the random weirdness that comes out of the unexpected mutation combos while keeping the game fast and easy for potential newbies. I resolved to make pregens, but deal out mutations and equipment from decks of cards.

      Mutation Decks
      I made two mutation decks. A green one for physical mutations and a yellow one for mental mutations. I used text recognition software to read the text directly out the first edition Gamma World rulebook, and Illustrator to lay out the cards, removing a few mutations that had really long or confusing descriptions. I put two of each of mutation in the respective decks. After each player picked out a pregen I had them roll 2 d4s, the first d4 being the number of mental mutations to draw, the second d4 being the number of physical mutations to draw. Email me if you want to make your own mutation cards - I'll send you the files.

      Mutation Cards in Action

      The Party
      After everyone picked pregens from the pile and drew their mutation cards, we went around the table and everyone briefly described their character’s mutations while I mentioned any (very) minimal background story any character may have had. The party ended up being:

      U-Gene Lev-E – 600 year old celebrity comic with stress-induced epilepsy and orangutan body.

      Musculus McGee – Four-armed mouse man with a bitchin anti-grav Datsun 280ZX. The envy of the skies!

      “Rascal” Smith – Mutated lil’ rascal!

      Chi Chi Robertson – Tiny humanoid cheetah kitten that sprays a musk compelling victims to do the Robotics Dance uncontrollably.

      Prince Spanky – Anthropomorphic canid empath, Prince of the Sky Island!

      Edvard Owlet – Flying owl man with super delicate skin and regeneration powers.

      El Super Mack – Mysterious invisible brainiac.

      Squid Vicious – Tentacle-faced freakazoid!

      The Adventure 
      (SPOILER ALERT: Read no further if you might want to play this scenario.)
      The game began at dawn with screaming and fire on the PC’s floating Sky Island village. The green antigravity-generating head - “Bill” the Gravitron - had been stolen away during a raid by humanoid wasp women! The players had exactly 3 hours to return the head to the island before the village crashed into the radiated wastes of earth below! The players jumped into the anti-grav 280ZX and zipped into the sky in pursuit of the wasps!

      They found the wasps living in a flying medieval castle with a huge two-story wasp nest protruding from its side. Near the drawbridge of the castle, on an outcrop of rock, was a semi-truck trailer and a few tents inhabited by human servants of the wasps. The party learned that these men were psychic slaves of the Wasp Queen, and they worked to maintain and run the castle whose computer system only responds to human commands. The party found one human named Bumpy Bo Bappy who had slipped out of the wasps’ mind control and wanted desperately to leave the castle. He was willing to help the party infiltrate the castle and let the party into the castle through a service entrance on the roof (after a brief fight with some wasp soldiers).

      Wasps Swarm the Castle Battlements!

      To make a long story short, the castle was a flying theme hotel from pre-apocalypse Las Vegas. In one of the guest rooms the party found an imprisoned worker-caste wasp woman named Prixie who wanted to rebel against the Queen and liberate the wasp hive from its tyrannical eusociality-imposed sterility (wasp nests are almost all non-reproductive females working for the Queen). Prixie was able to produce a small amount of pheromone to turn some of her sisters against the Queen – and together with the adventure party they started an insurrection in the wasp hive! Equality for all diploids!

      To complicate matters even further, a week before the adventure took place the diminutive King Helix had effected a coup, imprisoned the Queen, and was using her pheromone to control the hive. The last 1/3 of the session was a race around the hive and the castle, in the middle of an escalating wasp civil war, trying to find King Helix and the Gravitron. The party rocked it, with a totally rad invisible-quarterback Gravitron toss / teleport maneuver at the end of the game that returned Gravitron Bill to the Sky Island despite U-Gene Lev-E’s constant seizures. The party took out King Helix with a grenade, and managed to take control of the flying castle by capturing the small human boy who piloted the castle. The party had only one casualty near the end of the game. A romance blossomed between Prixie and Prince Spanky, suggesting a common future for the Sky Island and the Liberated Wasp People.

      Well done, mutants!

      Tricked Out Gamma World Screen Shields Cyclopeatronic Hirsuteness

      Saturday, June 5, 2010

      Robert Ryan's Harmonic Planar Wizardness

      Robert Ryan is a prolific painter and tattoo artist - one of my favorites on both fronts. I really love his wizardly imagery... all quite familiar to the magic users of Oranj.

      Tuesday, June 1, 2010

      Gamex 2010: Roleplaying for 20 Straight Hours

      This last weekend was Gamex 2010, one of the three big gaming conventions in the Los Angeles area. Guessing from the nametag numbers, attendance was probably somewhere near 1000. It was a nice sized event with tons of board games, RPGs, and beautiful epic miniature battles. The con was 4 days, but I could only attend Sunday because of other obligations. I took full advantage of my day at the con and ended up roleplaying for about 20 hours straight, with breaks for lunch and dinner. Starting at 9am I played in a Traveller session, I refereed an afternoon session of first edition Gamma World, and I played in an 8pm-3:30am session of old school Tunnels & Trolls. Yes, a great Sunday!

      This year the selection of RPG sessions was quite good, meaning that for many time slots there were multiple games I would have been keen to play in. However, seats for some of the really interesting games filled up quickly. I was even surprised and flattered to see that my afternoon Gamma World session was overbooked when I arrived Sunday morning - I had 9 players sign up for 6 slots. I was prepared for 8 players, so I was able to take the first two alternates. I lucked out and had an awesome and animated group, including some classic Gamma World fans I’d never met before – one guy even came prepared with cool minis and set-pieces! I’ll make a more detailed post on the Gamma World game shortly. (UPDATE: Read about it here!)

      Running Gamma World
      (photo courtesy Louis Garcia, Dead Gamers Society)

      Old school RPGs were pretty well represented at Gamex this year. There was a lot of Call of Cthulhu action and Robert Lionheart ran a bunch of sessions of Classic Traveller and Tunnels & Trolls. There was also off-program Gamma World action going on Saturday and Sunday nights.

      My biggest regret of the con was not getting in on any of the Dead Gamers Society sessions. There are a lot of fun and creative gamers in this group that are a blast to hang out with. Luckily they're going to schedule a game day this summer to rerun a bunch of their Gamex sessions for those that missed out this weekend.

      Lionheart’s Tunnels & Trolls game was definitely one of the high points of the convention for me. Lionheart, known as spinachcat online, is quite a talent. In the T&T game he was able to relay a very deep and convincing high fantasy background, and get the players in on some exceptionally satisfying epic-level action very quickly. Lionheart’s narrative, roleplaying, and refereeing skills are all excellent. This was my first experience playing T&T, and it was really great. We played using somewhat homebrewed 4th/5th edition rules.

      Yes, a great Sunday! I can’t wait for the next convention!

       Cool Mini Setup of The Boxer Rebellion 

       One Corner of the Boardgame Hall