Fire Goose

Created at the behest of Mark Hunt, for a silly little project on MeWe.

Fire Goose

Small beast, probably evil
Armor Class 16 Natural Armor
Hit Points 30 (5d10 + 5)
Speed 25 ft., fly 80 ft., swim 35 ft.
STR 12
DEX 14
CON 14
CHA 3 (because geese)

Immune to Fear (as near as we can tell)

The Fire Goose is basically just a goose, from a fiery pocket dimension. We assume. No one wants to go to whatever beknighted hellhole spawned something as terrible as a goose (which is already terrible) but also on fire. We wouldn’t even know the damned things existed – and might then sleep slightly better – except some idiot in a robe summoned one and the sodding things keep pulling more of their feathered, furious kin over. Seriously, it’s terrible. We may be doomed. Did you learning nothing from the Vrock Debacle that leveled the city of Yll, Kevin ?!?

Not noticeably larger than a typical goose, a fire goose is often mistook as its local cousins, if you approach in bright sunlight (which makes the fiery crown nearly invisible). However, once you get close enough (why would you get closer?!? – even if you didn’t realize it’s on fire, it’s still a goose, and thus nothing but pure evil and spite), it will stretch out its wings and wreathe itself in flames; either as a power display or – and gods above and below help you if this turns out to be the case – a mating stance.

The fire goose is not afraid to attack an intruder, but is also MORE than willing to summon aid and kill anything not goose-shaped with the support of its hellish kin. It is not unusual to see two or three fire geese turn into a large flock of twenty in less than a minute.

Also, they’re apparently mating with local geese as well, now? And get viable progeny? Gods’ tears, Kevin, what did you do? This is the darkest timeline.

Squawking Lava Charge. If the fire goose moves at least 20 feet straight toward a target and then hits it with a beak attack on the same turn, the target takes an extra 7 (2d6) fire damage. The target must also succeed on a Wisdom Save or become Frightened. This is not a supernatural effect: geese are just effing terrifying, man, and this one is on fire.

The Great Honk. When the Fire Goose feels threatened, wants to BE threatened, or – as near as we can tell – just bloody feels like it, it may attempt to summon more Fire Geese to its aid. The Fire Goose must attempt a CON save; on a success, its call was loud enough to be heard beyond the filmy veil between worlds, and another Fire Goose appears within 30 feet, already angry and ready to get stuck in.

Fearsome Hiss. At The start of the Fire Goose’s turn, it wreathes itself in flames and emits a hiss that affects all creatures in a 15-foot cone in front of the dire goose. Each creature in the area must succeed a Wisdom Saving or have disadvantage on its attack rolls until the end of its next turn.

Fire Beak. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 5 ft., one target. Hit: 1d6 + 4) burning damage.

Wreathed in Fire Wing Attack. Melee Weapon Attack: +6 to hit, reach 10 ft., one horrified target. Hit: 10 (2d6 + 4) fire damage. CON save or become prone.

Masks Menagerie Tropes

A couple weeks ago, I joked that I should try to identify the main tropes that show up in our current Masks game.

Unfortunately, some part of my brain didn’t know I was joking. So.

Masks, Actual Play Analysis, Sessions 11 to 15

We’re back! It’s another long flight, so let’s run through Masks sessions to the latest and see what to make of them…

Issue 11: When Sablestar Strikes! (hell-day part 3)

I like when we can start things in media res, if only to skip the fiddly front-loading on a session.

In this one, I skipped away from the school, working off the assumption Leo and Adam would want to get the action as far away from the school as they could. The players agreed, though in hindsight I probably didn’t need to play it so coy with the framing and just tell them what I was thinking. Lesson learned, though unfortunately not until now, and not when I needed it in session 13. More on that in a few.

At any rate, this fight went off quite well, I thought. The team has only had a few fights up to this point, and I was starting to think I’d need to bring in at least a 1-for-1 matchup to really test them, since they pretty much wiped out everyone up to this point.

Sablestar provided an additional and very different data point, proving a real problem for the heroes without me needing to bring in any further bad guys. Part of that was simply using mixed successes to complicate the scene with additional ‘stuff’ – when the heroes can take out a villain with 3 or maybe 4 solid hits, giving them something to do besides punching is much more interesting. This was definitely the most dynamic and interesting combat scene we’d had up to this point, and started to add some great backstory to Adam/Concord.

As things wrapped up, the last big move saw me handing out a pile of ‘take a powerful blow’ moves. I hemmed and hawed about this during the game – it felt right, and normally that’s enough, but for some reason I’m way way way more tentative with GM moves and even narration in this game. I have no idea why, and honestly I don’t think that extra care has benefited anyone very much, so I think I need to trust my instincts a bit more.

Weirdly, this is born out by a fairly egregious overstep I made a few sessions later. More on that in a bit.

Issue 12: When the Dead Walk!

(Hell-day part… four? seriously? – or part 4 and part 0, maybe, due to a flashback? It’s complicated)

This session was a bit weird, and weirdly short.

We started off with a flashback to cover what Ghost Girl had been up to during her Condition-clearing reckless investigation (a scene I should have had in the previous session and never got to). This ended up taking a long while, and didn’t involve anyone else, so that’s just poor use of time on my part, despite the fact I was happy with the stuff we got into and found out. Good narration, bad group-involvement. No GM cookie for that one.

The only other thing we got to was the big reveal that the robot that assembled itself in Link’s home base and came after him at school was actually a back-up of Pneuma that had activated after some kind of “Emergency: Go To 10″ protocol was activated when something bad happened to her.” There was some drama (and comfort/support moves) around this that I liked.

Buuuut, there is a problem I didn’t recognize until it was too late – putting Pneuma in danger is basically a board-clearing, table-flipping deal for Link, which presents problems when we already have a couple-three major plot chainsaws in the air. Bill gave me some good tips on ways to make that sort of thing a bit more of a timed slow burn, and I’ve tucked those away for later, but lesson learned.

Issue 13: If This Be In Media Res!

Day of Hell, part the Fifth

So I screwed up.

The obvious thing I screwed up is that I started in media res and framed the heroes into the middle of a major assault on… the secret basements and sub basements beneath the evacuated Halcyon International Airport, and I did so without checking with anyone first.

Which, when I sum it up like that, is so blindingly obvious a fuck-up it seems impossible I didn’t see it coming.

Now, that sort of framing is fine if you’ve taken the measure of the team and know that’s where things are going and just decide to skip to the higher action parts of things.

But that’s not what I did. Bad me. -2 GM cookies.

The thing is, it wasn’t DOING those things that was the actual screw-up.

The mistake I made was in getting talked into a hard-framed in media res thing in the first place, because I hadn’t prepped for it or really thought about it much, so I was ad-libbing the whole thing without communicating first, during, or after. (My only defense is that I was tired and punchy going into the night, but that’s pretty weak tea.) If I’m going to do something like that it needs prep, and communication. That was the real mistake.

This reinforces, in a weird way, the ‘need to trust my instincts more’ note I made a few sessions back, because my instincts were to not do this, and I didn’t listen.

So that’s both ways not trusting myself (not doing and doing) messing with me, inside two or three sessions. Bleh.

On the Bright Side

It was a deprotagonizing set-up, but everyone agreed the assumptions made were fair, if extrapolated without anyone’s input (damn it just seems to stupid and OBVIOUS every time I think about it). “If we’d played through the whole lead-in,” went the response, “it wouldn’t have looked exactly the same, but it would have been darn close, so it’s okay.”

Put another way, I’m annoyed with what I did, but I think the results in the fiction were good and added a lot of great stuff to the campaign – the introduction of Rosa Rook gets associated in everyone’s mind with the situation being out of their control and with high-handed manipulation by adults, and I guess that’s a plus, there; she’s a great addition I think the whole game really needed.

So… I really wish we’d gotten there differently, but I was glad for the final destination? I dunno.

The very best suggestion in post-session discussion was that getting everyone on the same page with the start of the session could have been handled beautifully with love letters, like that ones I used in Session One and which, in one player’s words “I’ve hoped we’d use more.” Great, great idea.

AEGIS swept in for a PR coverup (“those young heroes were at the airport to stop a power-suited terrorist!”), which leads us into the next session, where I’d take the love letter feedback to heart.

Issue 14: Love Letters… Unleashed!

Hellday 6: The Helldayening

I started off the session (and, really, pretty much filled up the session) playing off of love letters I’d written for each character.

I distributed them days earlier, giving everyone time to process and consider their choices, which gave everyone a lot more buy-in. I was also open to feedback and modification of the letters, but all the feedback was positive, so nothing to do there.

As I said, playing through all this stuff pretty much filled up the whole session, and saw the realization of the 6- rolls from the past three or four sessions that I’d had on my to-do list for awhile.

Jason started … let’s call it ‘hallucinating’ a 10-year-old version of Alycia Chin, bringing the total number of holographic AI relationships on his dance card to something like 4 or 5. I’m pretty happy with that result, and I think Dave was as well, as he had mentioned during the week wishing he could get all the success AND failure results from the love letter.

Concord’s … ‘shard’ finally woke up, which is going to give him something else to contend with – a ‘voice’ for the superhero side of his Superhero/Mundane existence, which we’ve both been looking forward to. The final scene with him and his family was awesome and brutal.

I was happy to see Link protecting his people to the press – I think that was really nice to see after a couple sessions of having them at risk. Also helped us highlight his friend Otto’s accessibility issues.

I was VERY happy to have Harry in a position where we could see him being more of an expert in the public side of being a superhero. It went well, and rolled into some good stuff in the following session as well. I really liked him in that space, and alienating him from his family a bit, which we haven’t seen yet, but will.

Everything else was revealing information (background about Ghost Girl) and laying the groundwork for same (Pneuma has a weird memory error in her backup, and AEGIS has a video of the moments surrounding Jason’s Dad’s … death? which Agent Waters slipped to Quill).

All in all, very happy with this session, and the use of the love letters. I’m thinking about using a “lite” version of this for the coming session to get things sorted out a bit more.

Issue 15: In the Clutches of Late-Night Melodrama!

Thank god this Hellday is ov- WHAT DO YOU MEAN PART 7?!?

I need to get better at rationing time based on how many characters are involved in the scene. I’m not good at that, and I need to get better.

Link moves in with the Gales, a twist I did NOT see coming. Need to think more about that, because there’s some completely unexplored territory there. Yet more good stuff with Harry, which I really liked.

Jason gets some information about his dad, working with Achilles Chin, working against someone… else? Who? What? Jason’s response says he’s expecting this to really blow up in his face in short order, in a big way. I’ve got some more stuff to lay out here.

Concord’s parents tell him they want him to stop working for the Concordance. Maybe. They want to talk about it. I think Mike and I are both excited about where that’s going.

And… a couple rolls go sideways and Ghost Girl starts out investigating her family’s ties to mystic secret societies and… ends up in the Sepiaverse.

So that’s gonna be a thing.


  1. I love this game. I haven’t been pushed like this in years.
  2. I also haven’t doubted myself as much either, which really needs to stop.

Masks “Menagerie” Campaign – Session 6 to 10

It’s been awhile since I’ve written about our ongoing Masks game (superhero antics in the vein of Young Justice, Teen Titans, or Avengers Academy), but that in no way means the game itself has slowed. Quite the opposite.

So, if only for the sake of bragging, I thought I’d catch things up.

The last time, I covered sessions 0 though 5. This time, it’s sessions 6 to 15, so buckle up.

Before I get rolling, I want to recognize two resources that have made this broad overview far more manageable.

The first is the forum that is automatically made available for any campaign you set up on (Our game is played online, and while the voice chat isn’t able to handle our group’s particular challenges, the other tools it provides are invaluable.) The forum lives here, and sees continuous, nigh-daily activity in the form of fiction, world-building, general discussion, and (of course) the blow-by-blow Actual Play summaries – usually authored by Dave Hill – which supplement if not completely stand in for my spotty recollection.

(Said forum has been made even more valuable with the addition of a custom coded search/scraper that Bill forced around roll20’s forum code at great personal effort.)

The second tool is a more recent addition to our electronic tool box, a wiki built and customized (again, mostly) by two of the players, Bill and Mike. Thanks to the organization of the wiki (and downright sexy layout), I’m able to excavate all kinds of trivia and bits of game lore that might otherwise have flared and died within minutes of being introduced into a session.

With that out of the way…

When We Last Left Our Heroes…

Sessions 1 though 5 were mostly about introducing the heroes to the people of Halcyon, and the players (and myself) to the Masks system. They had a morning show interview, a downtown brawl with some bad guys, and then rode the fallout from those events, (including the speedster getting temporarily lost in an alternate, devastated version of Earth.)

Session five saw the team looking forward or inward – taking stock of the problems they had on their plate and making plans to deal with them.

It also saw their team coming to the attention of AEGIS, the SHIELD-esque organization of the Masks universe.

Issue 6

One of the directives for a Masks GM is presenting adults as supportive but short-sighted; willing to help but always pushing their own vision and agenda on the teen heroes – help with strings attached. Okay.

Enter Agent Ted Waters (who’s probably going to be the most supportive, least strings-attached adult in the game – though that’s a low bar), an experienced AEGIS agent and the father-figure/handler for Link (whose actual father is super-villain Rossum the Minion Maker). Waters shows up at Quill Industries (the ‘sanctum’ for the team’s Doomed character) with paperwork in hand that will officially recognize the team by AEGIS… a move AEGIS hasn’t… umm…. actually sanctioned?

This paperwork is simple – it merely requires the team pick a name and an official leader. Easy, right?

The name had been under discussion via in-character posts on the forum, but we hadn’t brought it to the forefront yet. This was meant to facilitate that. They tell Ted the team will be the Menagerie and it gets the expected, bemused response from the older man (a good sign you’re on the right track in a teen-oriented game).

The ‘strings’ attached to this bit of help were more meta-level than an actual condition offered by Waters – the team had to pick a leader; a requirement I thought might generate some drama/angst/hand-wringing/reflection/et cetera.

It did all those things, so yay. 🙂

The team eventually settled on Jason Quill (the Doomed, played by Dave), a decision which the team treated with varying levels of seriousness. (Jason on one end of the panic-stricken-with-the-weighty-responsibility spectrum; speedster Mercury (Kay) providing the ‘whatever man paperwork is boring just write something in it doesn’t matter’ counterbalance.)

While Jason continued to process this development, Ghost Girl went and got herself in one kind of trouble (attacked by someone who saw her as a dangerous menace, starting both an arc and introducing her current Mundane-vs-Freak Hook), while Like found another (investigating a mutual friend’s disappearance and running afoul their supernatural kidnapper).

This development brought us to the end of the session with the team rushing to help GG, but split (“where the hell is Link?”), and under a leader (technically) who was still a bit in shock.

Issue 7: If the Graveyard Be My Destiny!

(All credit to Dave for the comic-book-classic session titles.

This session was meant to introduce one of Ghost Girl’s issues and a sort-of nemesis; Ghostheart (one of the characters from the Masks Deck of Villains) whose main deal is obsessively keeping living people over THERE, and dead people over THERE, and NO TOUCHING NO TOUCHING NOT EVER.

Charlotte is all about connecting with people amongst both the living and dead (she’s playing the Outsider playbook, and filled with wonder at the modern world in which she now finds herself), so Ghostheart seemed almost a custom-written enemy for her.

Most of the session was a nighttime fight at GG’s home cemetery against Ghostheart and a couple of his summoned demonic henchthings – Rawhide and I-Didnt-Catch-the-Other-Guy’s-Name. After the fight (and some really stilted, useless, uncomfortable leadership, beautifully delivered by Dave), the heroes (reunited, since Link was tussling with Rawhide on his own, initially) tracked down and rescued the kidnappee “@powerpony” – an online-mutual of both Link and GG’s (PC-NPC-PC relationship triangles are good – need more of those).


The players conducted a couple Google-Doc-based scenes after this session, simply to get them done in satisfying fashion without taking up too much in-game time.

The first was Link talking with green-lantern/Blue-beetle-esque Concord about the details of the kid’s powers.

The second was between Link and Jason – an often tense but ultimately fruitful and relationship-building ‘discussion’ about what kind of leadership the team really needed (and what kind Jason could legitimately provide).

Both scenes were great, and the ‘offline’ RP option proved a good one, though we try not to use it too much, as it tends to move characters whose players have the mid-week bandwidth for such things further center stage, in a play environment (online, short sessions) where it already seems someone ends up drawing the Spotlight Short Straw every week.

Issue 8: Lo, There Shall Be an Evening of Character Interaction!

As a means of exploring GG’s current Hook (her Mundane connections with others, versus the Freak nature of her powers), we also learned a bit more about why Ghostheart wanted GG out of public circulation – her interactions with the Living were creating some kind of ectoplasmic catnip that would inevitably attract a terrible entity known as Pandemonium to the material world.

The only way she could guarantee her living friends’ safety was stay away from them. Which sucks.

AEGIS rolled back into the picture much sooner than anyone expected, as the team called them back to take Ghostheart into custody. (The team opts NOT to go the morally-and logically-questionable route of the Flash CW show, with villains held without due process, inside a particle accelerator, and fed Big Belly Burgers on a… mostly daily schedule.)

The rest of the session involved the team either trying to help each other out with Comfort and Support-based roleplaying (with mixed but fascinating and sometimes hilarious results), or working through their own problems; Link’s robotic not-girlfriend Pneuma announced she was departing Halcyon for a bit to visit ‘someone’ in Japan, while Jason went down a digital rabbit hole, investigating how and why his nemesis Alycia Chin infiltrated Quill Compound as a lowly warehouse employee for a month.

Jason’s investigation led to a great scene where he uses his nanobots and latent genius to analyze Alycia Chin’s actions, and gets knocked cold in the process via some kind of latent … mental … something … Alycia left behind in the video recordings of her activities. Remote Memetic Programming, maybe? Image-gestalt boobytrap? That would be bad.

Issue 9: Sizzling Big Adult-Influence Issue!

The Beginning of the Day From Hell

Morning! The second Weekday of the campaign, and time once again for all good heroes to… get to school.

(Assuming they aren’t a ghost from the civil war, or unconscious, of course.)

A while back, Concord’s player had started a discussion on the forum where we all talked about whether the Nova playbook was working for him, and we collectively came to the conclusion that the Janus playbook worked better. So we retconned it.

This session was the one where we started to get into that ‘dual identity’ drama a bit more, very literally in this case (because I am a ham-fisted hack) with Concord trying to help Link with an unconscious Jason (via an energy construct copy of himself) while simultaneously attending school in his ‘real’ body. He didn’t exactly balance this out well, and ended up being sent to the principal’s office when he confused his multiple mouths and remonstrated his English teacher for being a ‘walking deceit’ when he meant to be talking to the vision of Alycia Chin in Jason’s head.

I’d call this situation a solid B effort on my part. Maybe a B-. We get better at this in short order, though, so I’m not going to beat myself up too much.

Meanwhile, Mercury and Ghost Girl spent the morning reaching out to adults for advice and input, before Mercury had to get to school.

Harry’s dad-joking, eggplant-emoji-texting dad, Silver Streak.
This is always a fraught situation in Masks – going into a scene with an adult or adults in Masks carries an undercurrent of threat akin to an armed parley with A-level super-villains. Honestly I’ve never done as much broad-spectrum damage to the team with a bad guy as I have in scenes with their well-meaning mentors dispensing advice, constructive feedback, and (horror of horrors) heartfelt praise.

It didn’t really go better here, with both Harry’s dad and the retired ‘grail knight’ Armiger (Lucius, owner/operator of the Has Beans coffee shop, downtown) kicking in their two cents about Ghost Girl’s ongoing Ghostheart/Pandemonium problem, what they thought the kids should do about it (and, ultimately, who they thought the kids should be.) They got what they were after, but Ghost Girl at least wasn’t feeling great about it afterwards, which lead to some Condition-clearing reckless behavior later. (As it should.)

Issue 10: Halcyon High-Jinks (Hell Day, Part 2)

Dave, Margie, and Katherine were all out of town, which left Jason recovering from his tussle with not-Alycia, Ghost Girl roaming the city doing reckless things without consulting the team, and Harry actually attending Gardner Academy (the private high school that tends to specialize in rich kids and publicly recognized supers).

Concord and Link, on the other hand, are on their way to HHS – Halcyon High South – part of the public school system, where they academically toil in relative anonymity.

Bill and Mike (and I) were excited to play around with that classic of teen superhero comics, the high school, so we had a good time with this. First order of business was to establish the normal day, and I had fun introducing some of the faculty, and went to the players to fill in NPCs (which gave us the wonderful Ms. “No!” Rodriguez, Leo’s lab partner.

I also introduced Taz, a new transfer and tech-nerd who seemed to either be a bit on the spectrum or way over-informed about Leo, or both. She showed up both in Leo’s chem class as well as at lunch with Leo and Adam, and was generally fun to play, freaked out the players a skosh, and has more going on that I’m looking forward to getting into.

With the norm established, it was time to get some Concord-grade villains on the stage, and that mean “galactic” villains. For this, I went back to the Deck of Villainy and pulled out The Farlander (who is just too weird looking and fun to play) and Sablestar who, by sheer coincidence in visual design, seemed to be … related to Concord and his powers in some way. There’s some vague hand-waving on her card about being a member of the Void Collective and something of a space-anarchist, but I already have an anarchist villain, so Sablestar and the VC became a kind of counter-(if not anti-)Concordance, in my head. We’ll see how that fleshes out over time.

So: a bit of fighting at the school with The Farlander, and the introduction of Sablestar, and as things get complicated we call it for the night, ready to bring in the rest of the team next session as things heat up.

That’s five of the ten sessions I wanted to cover, so I’ll stop here and do 11 to 15 in the next post. More soon!

Masks AP Resource

The whelmed podcast (located at the nigh-perfect url is basically "Buffering the Vampire Slayer," but for Young Justice. I've just started in on the beginning of the show, and it's great; if you like podcasts where pop culture love and gaming overlap and/or intersect, I recommend it.

But here's an additional BONUS: the podcast crew recently recorded a session of Masks, GM'd by Brendan Conway (the game's author), in which they play characters from the show in a scenario set in the five years between seasons 1 and 2 of YJ. The people playing these characters are note. perfect. in their protrayals (Kid Flash and Superboy are particular stand-outs), and Brendan does a fantastic job of introducing, integrating, and best-of-all explaining the rules as they go.

If you're looking for an AP recording that works as a primer/introduction to the Masks rules, and want the added bonus of seeing the game presented via characters with which you're probably already very familiar, I can't recommend these recordings enough.

Update: There are also pre- and post-game talks with Brendan, which are pretty illuminating.


Risus Supers!

S. John Ross (creator of Risus) mentioned a plan to run some one-shot game sessions online. I, like many others, voiced interest in this and (through a combination of luck and getting woken up before 6am by my kids) managed to snag a spot in the first game he decided to run: a one shot supers game this Friday.

Pre-generated characters were available, and while I was fine with that idea, I also pitched a short concept for a character a few people may be familiar with from back in my City of Heroes/DCUO days.

John liked my proposal, and we bounced feedback back and forth until we had nailed down a version we were both happy with. I’m putting it up here both to document the results and because I think it’s neat and interesting how the same basic character concept takes on different nuances when it’s expressed in different game systems.

The bullet lists beneath each cliche for this character are essentially the tools of the trade that come along with each cliche (defining those tools was a lot of the back and forth that John and I focused on). By default, tools of the trade are literal things you might possess, but as you can see, they can also cover demeanor, talents, areas of expertise, and ‘color’ for the character in question.

I’m looking forward to the game.

Lukacs Tolbathy, bastard child of a conniving war-witch and one of the Earth Princes of Utumno. (One of. His mother might know exactly which one, but she’s not saying, and rumors of her misspent youth indicate no less than fifteen likely candidates and twice the number “possibles.”).

With nothing in common with his mother and no connection to Utumno, Lukacs set out into the everworlds to find a life of his own. The alien invasion [or whatever Big Meta Thing is going on in the setting] lured him to Earth — providing him both a place where his native abilities were of use (in the role of a ‘superhero’), and where he stands some small chance of finding… What?

It’s possible Lukacs himself doesn’t know.


Half-breed earth elemental prince: (4)
– tough skin, manifesting stony fists, forming a big rock hammer to hit stuff with, or doing… sort of earth-bender type stuff with the ground
– sense of hidden nobility
– humility of the low-born
– basic knowledge of the ‘everworlds’

Kind-hearted strongman: (3)
– supernaturally strong
– friendly eyes
– imposing silhouette
– third-tier beard

Half-trained witch’s apprentice: (2)
– basic cantrips and few ‘oh crap’ spells.
– might be able to cobble together a ritual, maybe. Given a lot of time and books he doesn’t possess.
– generalist knowledge of the comic book “supernatural” (as opposed to tech or mutant/metahuman stuff)

Lucky Shots: 0 0 0


Playing Hero Kids with my Hero Kids

Last night, in lieu of normal bedtime activities (reading Winnie-the-Pooh, Justice League I-Can-Read books, or our new favorite, Bone), Kaylee and Sean and I played some Hero Kids.

Hero Kids

For those of you unfamiliar, this is an RPG specifically designed for “kids from ages 4 to 10” – says so right on the tin cover. It’s been on my radar for some time, but I hadn’t done anything with it (including read it), partly because Kaylee and I have been entirely happy playing Fate [^And, in fact, I need to write up our most recent game using that system], and partly because I (incorrectly) thought it was some sort of “Pathfinder Lite” set of rules, which I had absolutely no interest in.

Luckily, after running across a few good actual play reports, I gave it a proper read-through, and decided it might be just the thing for getting Sean involved in our games.

This isn’t to say we’ve never done RPG-like stuff with Sean before – we’ve had quite a bit of fun with his Imaginex DC Heroes figures and a superhero hack of a game Cory Doctorow made up for his daughter. The trick of color coding the dice (so that a d12 is “the purple one” not “the d12”) and simply rolling and reporting the number worked out pretty well.


Epic battle in a makeshift downtown.

But that option didn’t provide much story – it was really just a way for Dad to muck up otherwise frictionless superhero make-believe. I wanted something with a little – just a little – more oomph, but at the same time it had to pass the four-year-old test.

The Four-Year-Old Test

Some recognizable names in tabletop game design have been debating “the most intuitive dice mechanics” for the last several weeks. I haven’t paid much attention to these discussions, so I don’t know if I agree or disagree with any particular person. This is my take on it:

Intuitive directly correlates to A Four Year Old Can Manage It, Without Help.

By this guideline, Hero Kids is the most intuitive dice mechanic in any RPG I’m aware of. You roll a few six sided dice and find the biggest single result. Done.

  • No adding numbers together (he can do it, but finds it incredibly amusing to shout the wrong answer at the top of his lungs)
  • No counting successes Shadowrun/Vampire/Mouseguard style (which, while not beyond him, is marginally more complicated than “find the biggest number you rolled on a single die”).

Roll. Find biggest. Done.

It’s excellent, and combined with the utterly charming artwork provided for each of the (massive pile) of pregens provided, allows a kid to sit down, pick out someone who looks cool, and play. (And the fact that all the maps and paper minis in each module can be printed and prepped in a few minutes makes GM play setup a breeze.)

Example Character

The level of complexity a player deals with increases in direct proportion to how much of the character sheet they understand.
If they can’t read yet, they just focus on the icons and art, and the rest falls away.

And, not for nothing, the rules can easily be reskinned into a light version of damn near anything. Kaylee put together a very passable Hulk-like character for “super hero kids” in about four minutes.


Another example…

So, About the Actual Game…

The premise for the Hero Kids setting is wonderfully simple: all the Hero Kids live in a small town that would be idyllic, if you ignore the fact the place is constantly threatened by calamities both great and small. The kid’s parents are (in general) adventurers of the first water, and often called away for big problems, elsewhere, so it falls to the kids (who’ve been getting adventurer training since they were out of diapers) to deal with any troubles at home.

Anyone who thinks this setup is too silly or contrived to be engaging hasn’t been following current popular animated show and book trends, like Ever After High – my kids loved this simple premise for putting them in the hero-seat. [^You also needn’t worry about clichés or over-used tropes, because they aren’t jaded forty-year-old gamers; it’s games like these that introduce them to the tropes other modern games and books are playing for meta-irony that goes right over a kid’s head.]

As the game started, the two player characters (Swerver and Ashlee, a water/ice wizard and healer, respectively) are enjoying their weekly family dinner at the town’s tavern (the kid’s decided their characters were sisters).

There’s a crash in the kitchen, and the owner of the inn runs out, shouting that some HUGE rats just abducted her son Roger from right out of the kitchen.

The girls look at their parents, who cluck their tongues disapprovingly and murmur something like “Mmm. That’s too bad,” and return to their creamed corn.

“Aren’t you going to rescue Roger?”

“Oh… I suppose someone should, but not us.”

“Goodness no. It’s our one day off.”

“Why don’t you girls handle it?”


“Why not? You’ve certainly been training long enough.”

The kids look at their parents, each other, then exchange the very highest of high fives and race each other to the kitchen.

Kill Ten Rats

What followed was a (predictable, if you’re a jaded old gamer, but amazing if you’re them) descent into the inn’s basement, thence into a warren of tunnels beneath the inn, fighting a series of skirmishes with giant rats until finally facing off with the King Rat.

2015-03-10 - playing hero kids

I’m not going to describe the whole thing, but I am going to hit some of the highlights.

  • Sean picking out a girl character, all like “Whatever man, I’m a girl; get over it.”
  • Kaylee both picking a healer and maneuvering her character to take more of the damage to ‘cover’ her little brother. Best big sister ever.
  • Sean dealing with a ten foot high barrier in their way by instantly coming up with “I’m going to make a big water stair and then freeze it.” So awesome. [^We really need to watch Avatar: the Last Airbender and Legend of Korra with him, now that he’s old enough to remember it.]
  • Kaylee leading them into a ‘side cavern’ away from the main plot, and using her “searing light” as a way to see into series of stalagmites in which she could dimly make out… something. Turned out that “something” was four lost villagers, which she and her sister then freed and sent back out of the caves. Awesome.
  • The one rat who escaped every fight and kept retreating until he was finally beaten during the boss fight.
  • Sean spotting the King Rat paper miniature sitting by my notes and trying to convince me to bring him in during every. single. fight. we did.

“What are you going to do, Sean?”

“Well… I think the King Rat shows up now.”

  • The look on their faces when the rats in the last room used rat-sized tunnels to basically teleport around the edge of the room and sneak up on them.
  • The high-fives when King Rat went down.
  • Sean taking the King Rat paper mini with him, to bed.

This morning, seconds after he woke up, Sean came into the kitchen.

“Daddy, do you remember the game we played last night?”

“I sure do, bud.”

“With King Rat?”


“I think… we should play that again.”

“Oh yeah?”

“Yeah. We should play that again. Maybe… we should play it now?”

So… yeah. It was a pretty good game.

2015-03-10 - hero kids

I am a Nerd (Final-ish version)

I’ve posted versions of this on my main blog, but while I like it, it didn’t quite feel like it was completely there.

I had the chance to recite it for an audience last night at Whidbey MFA. I said “recite” because I’d memorized it while driving out from Denver, and that memorization helped me update the piece in a couple ways (dropping or changing clumsy lines, and removing a couple stanzas).

The recitation went pretty well, so I think it’s just about there. I thought I’d share it now, though I’ll probably add a voice recording to it when I get a few minutes.

[Edit: Audio file is available down at the end of the post.]

Anywhere, here it is.

Class reunion
not exactly fun
until the third rum
and Coke.
Then one school chum
interrupts the hum
and buzz
and half-drunken fuzz
for a joke.
His Genuine Draft thunks down
(emblematic drink of this small midwestern town)
and he says
“So… Doyce
“… are you still a nerd?”

(Before I proceed, a disclaimer
about this guy, not me,
a bit of a skeeze
he might say he hasn’t let the years change him
I might say he hasn’t changed his denim
Wranglers. Might be the same pair
he wore down there
under his gown, where
he stood up with the rest of us
mortarboard on like the rest of us
but all the way down at the end of the line
fiftieth out of forty-nine
diploma-receiving graduates.
No real friend of mine
and, certainly, it would feel sickly sublime
to simply dismiss him this time,
ask how his wife likes the wine
or how it feels standing in line
for unemployment.

But there would be no enjoyment.)

We’re all together here
Feeling the booze and beer
and good cheer
sitting at folding tables
telling each other fables.
about the last twenty five years.

So rather than rage,
I decide to engage
and say:
“A nerd? Me?
Let’s see.”

I’m not going to waste time talking
about roleplaying games, walking
to school every day hauling
three bulging gym bags full of rule books.
And all the funny looks.

I mean, you know that already, you were there
And at the time, it’s not like I cared
What anyone thought
What kind of stares I got.
No one was going to kick my ass
Not when there were only fifty kids in our class
And the biggest nerds in school at the time
Were five of the varsity football front line.
No: let’s move forward in time.

Am I a nerd?

The person who convinced me to write my first book
I met in college when she came over to look
at photocopied posters for a local gaming convention
(my personal invention)
which I and my friends were hanging… on every wall in campus.
And she wanted to ask us
if we’d ever played
Vampire: the Masquerade.
(We’re still close today.
I introduced her to her husband at one of those college game days.
Their daughter’s name is Ray.)

Am I a nerd?

My wife and I met Online,
the story of our times
but a dating site? Tame.
We met playing video games
Saving the world with ice and flame
Or bows and blades
Looting digital upgrades.
From twenty-player raids.
Our date nights
Were orc fights.
Dorks, right?
Sure, we became friends because we’re clever and witty
And had things in common, like saving Paragon City.
But you know what charmed her
What floated her
I kept up with her Buffy the Vampire Slayer quotes.

Am I nerd?

My kids would say yes
if I had to guess.
My daughter, nine, at recess
plays the part of a zombie princess
scary, but cool, in a ragged black dress.
Leading her armies onto the field
with a magic sword only she can wield.
(The other kid gets an unbreakable shield.)
Does she get teased?
Not that I’ve seen
And if so, she’d handle it better than me.
“You know who’s a nerd?!?” She calls out at school.
I am… but all of you are, too.”
A nerd, she explains,
is just a name
For someone who gets excited about video games
Or Science, or Music, going to space,
reading four inch thick books with a smile on your face.
the local sports teams, shooting some pictures
or baking soufflés with just the right lift. Nerds
are just people
who care
so much
about something
it scares

So you asked me this question to… what?
Make me blush?
See if my spirit is easily crushed?
I can’t even guess
so let me address
your query
with something far less
than indignant fury:

“A nerd? Me?

What does he say?
WOW. Okay.
“I was just wanted to see
“what you thought of those new Hobbit movies.”

And my wife,
thus far silent throughout the exchange
cries out in pain
“OH GOD, now you’re just trolling.
“Both of you go get drinks
“… before he really gets going.”

The Glitcherman

Today, I was walking around the neighborhood with my daughter, looking at trees and houses. (There are only 3 or 4 house templates in our suburb, and we like to try to spot ‘our house’ in other places.)

While walking, we were talking about the concept for Save Game. (Short version: there’s a world-destroying evil virus on the internet that can only be stopped by the characters from videogames – Wreck-it Ralph meets Lord of the Rings.)

“So the heroes are like … I dunno … Batman?”

I paused. “I think it’s supposed to be characters like… Mario, or Samus, or the Minecraft guy.”

Kaylee frowned. “The Minecraft guy? You mean Steve?”

Now, I’d heard her and her friends mention “Steve” in the context of Minecraft before, so I knew who she was referring to. “No. I mean the guy you build stuff with. Steve’s just that one zombie guy with the different-colored shirt from all the others, right?”

“Right, but he doesn’t start out a zombie. He starts out alive in every world.”

“Really.” This was news to me.

“Yeah. His brother kills him.”

This was really news to me. “What?”

“Yeah. My friends and I figured it out. See…” She settled her hands into ‘this is an involved story’ position as we walk. “There’s this one guy who can get into your worlds, even your private ones, and he goes from world to world, looking for the really good worlds.”

“How’s he get in?”

“He glitches into them,” she said, as though it was obvious. “And when he finds a really good one, he — well, the first thing he does, he finds Steve and kills him.”

“… okay…”

“Then he glitches the world. It kicks you out of the game, and destroys the world so you can’t ever get into your world again and even have a really hard time making a new world after that.”

“Why… does he do that?”

“He takes them,” she explained. “He takes all the really good worlds away from the kids that make them.” She paused. “From grown-ups too, I guess.” (She’s vaguely aware that grown-ups also play Minecraft.

“Has this ever happened to you?”

“No, but… I’ve got one world I really like, with a bunch of really cool stuff, and I try not to log into it very much, because I know if I go there too often, he’ll find it.” She scuffed at a leaf. “I’m sort of expecting it to happen, eventually. It’s like fate.”


We walked for awhile, then she said “You’re being really quiet.”

“Well,” I said, “I’m pondering the fact that you and your friends basically invented a Minecraft/internet version of the book I read last week.”


“Yeah,” I said. “And I can’t decide if that’s really cool or incredibly creepy.”

She shrugged and grinned. “How about both?”

Why I haven't Blogged about Wildstar Yet

… as explained by Tycho at PA. (See link and disregard first paragraph, which is mostly about something else.)

"When I try to write about Wildstar, I get stuck in a sort of spiral.  I don’t really know where to start, because everything refers to some other part.  It’s interlaced in a way that reinforces everything. […] So where do I even start?  At what point of the spiral do I bring you in, and begin to chart it? Maybe I’ll figure it out if I log in and play this instant."

Yeah. It's pretty much like that.

For me, Wildstar has created one of those vanishingly rare #gaming situations where, if I have a question about how something works, I would rather log in and spend two hours playing with that thing to figure it out… than take twenty seconds looking up an answer.

I'm still looking for the element or aspect of play – a class, a path, a trade, something – that I can point at and say "There. I do not enjoy that. I would not want to play a character with that as a core facet."

I have eight 'main' characters because so far, I haven't found it.?

Penny Arcade – The Cool Of The Pool
Club PA. Ad Free Experience; Club PA Pinny Arcade Pin; Staff PA Podcast; And 10+ more benefits. Learn More · Penny Arcade · News · Comics · Read. Penny Arcade · Read. The Trenches · Read. Camp Weedonwantcha · Read. PA Side Stories · Read. PA Presents · Archive · Forum · Shop …

Fate: Kugen Wasabi

This has been sitting in my drafts folder for something like six months, so let’s put it out there, just for fun.

I made this guy up for a “feudal, so-high-tech-it’s-low-tech Japan” campaign that ran for (I think) just the character creation session. An obvious riff on the Blade of the Immortal comics (which I’ve never read).

Kugen Hasabiwasabi

High Concept: Immortal Samurai
Trouble: Mysterious Past, Even to Me
– Nanites in my Blood
– Everyone Lies, but No One Listens
– [open]

Great (+4) Fight
Good (+3) Deceive, Physique
Fair (+2) Athletics, Notice, Stealth
Average (+1) Craft, Ride/Transport, Will, Provoke

Nanite Repair. 2:Armor, or 2 over average armor in setting.  1x/session, spend a fate point to downshift Minor or Moderate Consequences (2 stunts). See also “Being Immortal in Fate.”
Liars know Liars. Use Deceive to defend versus Deception or overcome obstacles created via Deception.

Refresh: 3

Physical Stress: OOOO
Mental Stress: OOO

Character Progression in Fate Accelerated

One of the complaints/problems I've run into with previous incarnations of Fate were with character advancement. To be blunt, there wasn't any, or it wasn't satisfying for those familiar with more mainstream RPG gaming. 

That is, without a doubt, a 'fixed problem' with Fate Core and FAE. The best demonstration of that I've found have been with write-ups like these: Conan's entire career as a series of FAE milestones.

A couple other great examples are Batman: Year One ( and Luke Skywalker in Star Wars episodes 4, 5, and 6 (

#gaming  #fae  #fatecore  ?

Character Highlight: Robert E Howard’s Conan – Through His Career (FAE)
Hither came Conan, the Cimmerian, black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand, a thief, a reaver, a slayer, with gigantic melancholies and gigantic mirth, to tread the jeweled thrones of the Earth under his sandalled feet.” – …

A few thoughts on EVE, a static playerbase, and how I'd fix it

Reshared post from +Doyce Testerman

A few thoughts on EVE, a static playerbase, and how I'd fix it.

(Also: the new home of my Life in Eve #gaming posts!)?

Stay Awhile and Listen: Growing the EVE Population with a Good Story
Some of EVE’s current zeitgeist is currently swirling around the topic of New Players. Getting them. Keeping them. Breaking into demographics only thinly represented in-game at the current time. I want to talk about it a bit…

Finding Time: Google+ Saved my (Gaming) Life

I self-identify as a gamer more readily and/or instinctively than any other social sub-caste, up to and including “parent.” Good or bad, that’s the way it is.

(To be fair, I’ve been dropping dice on various flat surfaces and expressing their results as bloody narrative for something like 32 years, which is four times longer than I’ve logged as a shaper of innocent human larvae, so maybe that’s okay.)

The thing is, if you consider that randomaverage (which is effectively the oldest blog I have) has no other purpose than to provide a space upon which I can scratch my game-related sanskrit, and you disregard the stuff I’ve written about EVE (which while voluminous was basically a paid gig), it becomes glaringly obvious that despite my well-documented interests, I haven’t been doing a lot of gaming recently.

(Recently: the last three years.)

2010 was essentially the last great gaming hurrah around Casa Testerman — a drought whose origin can be directly tied to the arrival of my son, and with Child3 just arrived, it would be fair to assume another third of a decade wandering the non-gaming wasteland.

And yet.

2013 has, instead, seen the first green shoots of gaming life pushing up through the smothering mulch of diapers and dried formula that lies deep and crisp and even out to the edge of my personal horizon.

How can this be?

Some of it – a precious and important part – lies with the fact I’ve been able to start gaming with my daughter, but (so far, at least) that’s an unreliable and infrequent event, thanks to school and the mountains of homework we both have to deal with every week.

But aside from that, in the last fifteen weeks I’ve played in a dozen game sessions, which is the most proper gaming I’ve managed in the last three years, and the most time I’ve spent playing and not-GMing in… I think, ever.

The reason: Google+ Hangouts.

MMOs aside (and, really, they aren’t relevant to this discussion), I’ve never enjoyed much success with online gaming; things like play-by-post or play-by-email games just move too slowly to hold my interest for more than a few weeks. I tried out a Heroquest game via IRC text chat at one point, but even then the glacial pace was an issue – it was simply compressed into six-hour sessions instead of stretched over a month. Voice chat by itself never grabbed me – too much going on, and no way to easily sort out what was happening.

But Hangouts? Voice, video, dice rollers, shared maps/images… all available nigh-instantly, in one place, via a technological platform so simple my parents use it as a regular means of keeping in touch with their grandkids. I and the other players might as well be in the same room, with the added convenience that we aren’t — there’s no travel time, no room cleaning, no packing and carrying of game books, and your entire personal library of stuff remains immediately at hand because you haven’t gone anywhere. More than any other game sessions I’ve played, nearly 100% of the time you’ve allocated to playing is spent playing, instead of Getting There or Waiting For The Last Guy To Get There.

I think about how hard this all would have been as little as three years ago…

Screw jetpacks. THIS is the future.
Screw jetpacks. THIS is the future.

Now, I’m not a hermit – I don’t hate the idea of gathering together for gaming, nor do I even hate people (much).

But gathering is hard. Schedule a game session for even a modest 3 hours and you’re locked in for (at best) an hour on either side where (thanks to travel time, packing, prep, and the niceties of modern hygiene practice) you are essentially unavailable for any other purpose. As a parent who’d very much like his spouse to keep talking to him on a nigh-daily basis, that’s very nearly a non-starter right there.

But three hours when you don’t have to go anywhere and (in moments of need) can step away to help your understanding and supportive spouse for a few minutes? That’s good stuff.

This is all aided by the degree to which Google+ ties into the rest of the Google ecosystem. Schedule the event in your calendar and you (and your other players) get an emailed reminder at the right time, with a link to click on that will automagically open the hangout in a new window – no muss, no fuss. Pop an earpiece in or on, and you’re at the table. Better yet, wrap up, close the window, and you’re home. A three hour game session largely free of distraction, with the entirety of your home within easy reach, that starts and ended within minutes of the scheduled time and drops you right back into your family’s orbit? Nearly perfect, and no more disruptive to your home life than a long phone call. (I know I’ve spent more time providing long distance tech support to my family members, without forewarning, and didn’t feel nearly as good when the conversation wrapped up.)

“I have to get out.”

I’ve gotten excited about G+ gaming to the point where I’ve tried to set up regular gaming sessions on Google+ with people I actually know and see locally, because (a) I like playing with them and (b) even though they’re here, sitting down at the same table with them isn’t any easier just because we share a zip code – and it won’t be for at least another couple years (just for me, ignoring anyone else’s situation).

This desire to invite local friends to an online game led to an interesting conversation that exposed a fascinating misconception from one of my friends. I was talking about the game I was potentially planning, and asked if he’d be interested in joining. He replied:

“I really need to get out of my house and go meet with people to game.”

I asked if that was because of some technological problem.

“No. It’s that gaming is how I get out and see people. I don’t have the same opportunity you have to visit with interesting people at social events all the time.”

I laughed.


Because crying would have been awkward.

It should be obvious from what I’ve already written, but in case it’s not: I don’t find G+ useful because I’ve already had my fill of face to face contact. I enjoy G+ because it’s the best and often only regular option I have right now to have a conversation that doesn’t involve toilet training or homework assignments, without become completely unavailable as a husband or parent for five or six hours.

“I Don’t Know How You Do It.”

So this is my life right now:

  • Three kids: Infant, 2 year old, 8 year old
  • Two dogs
  • A marriage of which I’m rather fond
  • Full-time job
  • MFA program (writing workshop, directed reading, thesis, et cetera)
  • Part-time technical support for a forum
  • Guest speaker at a writer’s conference
  • Kickstarter project
  • Writing

And yet I fit in:

  • A regular weekly gaming session
  • A regular weekly writing workshop unrelated to the MFA (also online)

The reason it’s possible is:

  • My wife, who is awesome and supportive
  • Google+, which handles scheduling, reminders, play space, logs, dice rolling, voice, video, map sharing, doc sharing, and asynchronous communication between sessions, all via a platform that is low tech enough for nearly everyone I know

So… there you go. I don’t have a fancy wrap-up. Truth be told, I’ve been meaning to write this post for nearly a month, but I haven’t been able to find time. Funny and sad, when you think about it.

But I made time, because I think this is something more adult gamers need to know is out there. I’ve said before that I’m spending more time on Google+, because it’s the best online space for people who share your passion, and this is part of that. If you’re ones of those gamers who, if you’re honest, is really someone who used to be a gamer, you owe it to yourself to check out some of the Google+ communities and see what’s out there.

Hidden Things Audiobook kickstarter

[This post originally appeared on my other blog at]

I’m a writer.

I write for a living and, more than that, I write because I love it. I always have: my first coherent story (a taut action-mystery-thriller in the ageless style of Alvin Fernald) is… let’s say “stored for posterity” in an old steamer chest in my garage. Handwritten, hand-bound, and illustrated in pen AND crayon – indisputably the best work I produced, circa 1979.

I’m proud of that little book, and the kid that wrote it. I’m proud of all the stories I’ve written since (even the ones consigned to my “still needs work” folder), the ones I’m working on right now, and (of course) Hidden Things. It’s a hell of a thing, to hold a book in your hands and see your words made solid in the world.

Things that make me happy.
Things that make me happy.

But I’ve never quite felt I was done with Hidden Things. Not quite.

Because for me, part of a story is telling it; actually speaking the words. Putting your characters’ rage and fear and joy into the air. Making listeners laugh, or cry, or groan. It’s simple: I was surrounded by storytellers as a kid, and that was what they did.

Now, I get to do it too.

Thanks to the efforts of my amazing agent and the fine folks at HarperCollins (who returned audio rights to me simply because I asked for them), I now have the opportunity to record the Hidden Things audiobook and make it available exactly the way I wish every audiobook could be.

I’m going to tell you a story.

More than that, we’re going to make it happen, together. Please, visit the Hidden Things Audiobook Kickstarter page to find out how.

I’m excited.

I’m a little scared.

I could not be happier.

HTAudio-cover draft Q

Interested in backing this project? Head to the Kickstarter page to find out more!

Want to find out more about the Hidden Things novel? We’ve got you covered.

Want to know why I’m so against DRM? Here you go.

Where I’ve Been

I haven’t been logged into Eve for awhile. Or DCUO. Or LotRO, or really anywhere online. Gaming has, in short, taken a bit of a back seat for awhile, though I doubt that’ll last.

The summer turned out to be a lot more busy than I’d expected.

One of the reasons is this guy.

2011-11-12 Jake

That’s Jake, my best buddy, who passed away yesterday. I wrote about it on my other blog, if you’re interested.

Atomic Robo, Some of the Most Fun You Can Have with Action Science!

Guaranteed* 98% free of unexpected explosions.

#wp  #gaming

* – Should not actually be considered any kind of guarantee. At all.

Atomic Robo & the Fightin’ Scientists of Tesladyne |
Let’s start with a quick questionnaire. Do you like: Buckaroo Banzai; Indiana Jones; Doc Savage; Hellboy (movie or comic); Science, especially when it is followed with an exclamation point or preceded by the words “violent,” “adventure,” or both; Nikola Tesla; Wisecracks; Beating up Nazis …

Fate: Trouble Magnet – Session Three

We picked up the action from Session Two the following day. Hooray for weekends and little brother’s naptime.

Matthew Cuthbert drives a beautifully preserved old pickup that purrs down the highway like a sleeping lion. Inside the cab of the pickup, the old man and young girl are quiet: Matthew seems a bit uncomfortable with small talk, now that he’s on his own, and the Nataly has always been comfortable entertaining herself — she pulls out several of her comic books once it’s clear Matthew isn’t going to spend the drive quizzing her, and dives in.

After a half-hour or so, he clears his throat and asks what she’s reading.

“Just… my comic books,” she says, looking at the covers as though she wasn’t sure the covers matched the contents.

“Ahh, I see…” he mulls that over. “Which, ah… which ones are those about?”

She shrugs. “Superman. Captain Spectacular. The Clue. War Witch. The Inspectre.”

“Well, now…” he says, smiling a bit, “I’ve even heard of some of those.” He frowns. “You know… it’s a puzzle. There’re superheroes out there, and there’s superhero comics, but a lot of the comics you mentioned are made-up people, instead of the real ones. I wonder why that is.”

[Note: I had not talked this idea over with Kaylee beforehand — we were just roleplaying through the car ride and I lobbed this at her to see what she’d do.]

Nataly considered for a few seconds, then shrugged. “People read the comics to have fun. If they read something that happened to a real superhero, that’s just… news. Nobody likes news.”

Matthew pondered that, then nodded. “I reckon that’s so.”

[The next day, I asked Kaylee which of the superheroes she mentioned were ‘real’ and which were ‘just comics’ in Nataly’s version of the world. The answer she gave told me that we’re in somewhere in the DC multiverse (I’ll call it Earth-23), albeit with a few unfamiliar names in the headlines. I suspect this is at least partly because she’d rather Nataly meet Robin than read about him.]

The drive was a long one — her new home wasn’t anywhere near Clearwater Campus, and Nataly wondered how her new family had even heard of it, let alone her. She asked about her new home, but Matthew didn’t know much.

“We just moved in a few days ago,” he said. “Marilla – my sister – picked it out, while I was coming to get you. Have you ever lived on a farm?”

Nataly shook her head.

“Me neither,” he confided. “I guess we’ll all figure it out together.”

“What did you do before you moved?” Nataly asked.

“Well, now…” he thought it over. “I suppose we were just… looking around for the right thing.”

Nataly dozed for awhile, and Matthew woke her when they got close to their destination.

“Now, Marilla is… really excited to meet you,” he said, “but she gets stern when she’s nervous, so don’t hold her first impression against her. She warms up over time.”

Nataly nodded. A veteran of uncounted “family interviews”, she had no fear of meeting new people.

The farm house looked as though it hadn’t been lived in for quite awhile. It was nice, just a bit run-down.

“We’ll have lots to work on,” thought Nataly.

A woman about Matthew’s age was waiting in the yard, and Nataly got out and walked over right away to shake her hand.

“So,” said Marilla, “you’re the girl.” She tried on a smile, though it didn’t look especially comfortable. “Good.”

Marilla and Matthew give Nataly a tour of the rambling old farmhouse, and she’s encouraged to unpack, but that really doesn’t take very long. The two suggest she ‘do a bit of exploring around the place’, which she does, though she purposely does not do any experimentation with her bracelet at this time, her reluctance explained as a desire to have at least one day go by at the farm with nothing going wrong. Supper and bedtime are pleasantly uneventful, and Nataly dozes off while (re)reading comic books.

The next morning, after helping with breakfast, Nataly is directed back outside for more ‘exploring’, and her own meandering and boredom eventually get the best of her and lead her to more messing around with her bracelet. This goes quite a bit better than the previous morning’s misadventure with Kendra, and after a few hours she finds she’s able to fly reliably and even get up a kind of ‘force bubble’ semi-reliably — it seems to be more of a flinch reaction when she’s about to smash into something hard.

She’s surprised to realize that flying is hard work: something that leaves her quite as winded as she would be from a long run or a series of sprints — it’ll be in her best interests to continue to ‘exercise’ her new abilities.

She returns to the house at lunchtime, washes up, helps lay food out, eats enough for three grown adults, chattering the whole time, and then actually falls asleep sitting in her chair. Matthew carries her up to her room and she naps for almost three hours, then helps her new family unpack and organize the house. Marilla doesn’t think much of her comic books, but does have a surprisingly broad selection of science fiction novels that Nataly has never heard of and which Marilla seems eager for the girl to read.

Nataly wakes in the middle of the night unsure what’s jolted her from sleep, but doesn’t have to wait long — the strange skittering across both the roof of the house and the floor of her room answers that question quickly enough.

She’s still trying to decide if she should go and explore or call for someone when a large, clicking, metallic spider-creature-thing jumps onto the foot of her bed.

The CGI from Lost in Space has NOT aged well, in case you were wondering.
The CGI from Lost in Space has NOT aged well, in case you were wondering.

Nataly, never a big fan of spiders in general, much less big robo-spiders the size of dobermans, lets out a shriek, shoves at the thing and… blasts it back off her bed and right through the wall, leaving a gaping hole between her room and Marilla’s.

There’s a moment of stunned silence, then Nataly shouts:


Just as Marilla shouts:

“Matthew! They’re here!”

Who’s here?” Nataly hollers, and jumps out of bed.

“Get downstairs!” is her only reply, and she does so, stopping only long enough to grab her backpack.

The outside of the house is crawling with spiderbots.

Metal Shell, Spindly Legs

+2 to Creepy Spider Stuff
-2 to everything else.

No stress boxes.

Four of the ‘bots leap down, a silvery web spread out between them like a net. Nataly throws a force field up that’s too big for the web to surround, the spiders themselves hit it and bounce away. Matthew tries to grab one and smash it, but it crawls up/wraps around his arm and grapples with him.

Marilla emerges from the house carrying a bag that would intimidate Mary Poppins and snaps at Nataly to get to the barn, but the girl isn’t going to leave her new friends… family. Whatever. She drops her own force field and creates shields around Marilla and Matthew instead, which give them more than enough of an edge against the spiders to do some damage. Matthew peels his loose and smashes it against a second one, destroying both, while Marilla’s arm seems to… fold apart, revealing a very large gun barrel that spews bright blasts of energy that make short work of several spiders (though they also damage the house and start several small fires).

Matthew, at least, is willing to listen to Marilla, and heads to the barn to get his pickup out so they can get away.

Nataly’s a bit traumatized by her brand new home being on fire, but Marilla’s grim determination helps her stay focused. Marilla’s unexpected offensive has the spiderbots reeling. [Rather than going for damage, she created an Advantage for Nataly to exploit, and the dice were very kind, giving Nataly two free +2 aspect invocation bonuses to use against the enemy.]

Nataly takes advantage of Marilla ‘grouping’ the stunned spiderbots into several large clusters and tries to repeat the trick she did to the bot that jumped on her bed, hurling several ‘balls’ of force energy at the clusters of spiders.

[[Between the two free invokes, the +2 bonus she gets from one of her stunts, Kaylee’s insistence on using a Fate Point to invoke her ‘bracelet’ aspect, a good dice roll on her part and a bad dice roll on my part, she ended up with something like fourteen (!) shifts worth of damage to dole out amongst the ‘bots. Not enough to take them all out, but more than enough to cut their numbers by half and give her and her family plenty of time to drive away.]]

It’s quiet in the cab of the truck. Nataly is looking out the back window at her first real home, burning, dwindling in the distance.

“Well…” Matthew finally says. “I’d guess you did a bit of something or other with your bracelet today?”

Nataly doesn’t know what to say, or how he knew, so she simply nods. He nods in return, glancing at Marilla, who’s mouth gets tight.

“It’s our own fault,” she says, “this foolishness about living out in the country. There’s no other anomalous energy signatures out here — anything the girl does will stand out like a spotlight.” She shakes her head.

“I’m sorry,” Nataly’s voice is small, sure that this is all her fault.

“Oh, girl, don’t be silly. We should have known better.”

“I could… just…” she swallows “…not use the bracelet?”

“Well, now…” Matthew drawls. “That won’t do, I don’t think.” (Which is a great relief to Nataly.)

“No it will not,” Marilla agrees, primly. “The problem is being out here in the open.” She considers. “What a body needs is camouflage — the more strange things going on around us, the less likely anyone’s going to notice the girl.” She looks at Matthew.

“City it is, then,” he replies, and spares a smile for Nataly. “Best you get some sleep. It’s a long drive to Mercury Bay.”

Some People Just Want to Watch the World Burn

So I'm thinking about Area of Effect attacks in Fate, and came up with a stunt for same. 

AoE Junkie. +2 to any Magical attack action where you split your final total between multiple targets.

The basic idea is a Stunt that makes attacking a few people at once a decent option, while still resulting in attacks that are weaker, on a target-by-target basis, than a single-target version would have been. Thoughts?

[I reallly want to add follow-up "Lina Inverse" stunt that gives an additional if you target allies as well as enemies, indiscriminately. :)]

#gaming   #fate

Fate Core: Agent Coulson

I'm working on some characters that have pushed me in an interesting direction with stunts. Sharing them here to get some feedback.

First up: Agent Coulson, as portrayed in the recent Marvel movies.

Agent Coulson
High Concept: Unshakeable S.H.E.I.L.D. Agent
Trouble: Fanboy
– Cat Herder
– S.H.E.I.L.D. Tech
– Deadpan (or: Level 10 Clearance)

+4: Empathy
+3: Rapport, Contacts
+2: Shoot, Fight, Lore
+1: Stealth, Athletics, Drive, Will

Psychologist. Once per session you can reduce someone else’s consequence by one level of severity (severe to moderate, moderate to mild, mild to nothing at all) by succeeding on an Empathy roll with a difficulty of Fair (+2) for a mild consequence, Good (+3) for moderate, or Great (+4) for severe. You need to talk with the person you’re treating for at least half an hour in order for them to receive the benefits of this stunt, and you can’t use it on yourself. (Normally, this roll would only start the recovery process, instead of changing the consequence level.)

I know your weak spots. You can use Empathy for mental-track Attacks, rather than Provoke, provided you've at least studied the target's S.H.I.E.L.D. profile, or had a chance to talk with them for a few moments.

I was briefed before the mission. Spend a Fate Point to use any one skill at Fair for the rest of the [scene/session?].

The "I was Briefed…" stunt is a bit of a new direction for a Stunt, and I'm curious what people think about it. My thought is that it let's Coulson 'cover' gaps in a group's skills without overshadowing anyone who's made that one of their peak skills. I'm inclined to go full-session with the stunt, since a single scene will probably only require one roll, which you could get a +2 on with just the Fate Point and his High Concept aspect.


Quickly, Hive Pocket

Anyone here played Hive Pocket with their kids? I got it based off a reddit review and my daughter (7) LOVES it, and loves a good "best of five" match with Daddy. (For that matter, I enjoy it too, as does my wife and everyone I've shown it to. The play scales beautifully depending on the sophistication of those playing.)

Best part of Hive Pocket is the fact that you get both the expansions for the game (Mosquito and Ladybug) all as part of the package.

Good review here:

Amazon page here: 


Review: Hive
Paul: What is Hive? That sounds like some horrid illness, some terrible disease. “I’ve got Hive Pocket!” you shout down the telephone to your GP, sweaty hand gripping the receiver.
Quinns: Paul,…

As much as I'm longing for some super-heroic #gaming  beat-down right now,…

As much as I'm longing for some super-heroic #gaming  beat-down right now, this pretty much sums up why I won't be spending money on the new Marvel game that just launched.

Penny Arcade – Marvelous Heroism
Print Added. Woo! You’ve just added the print below to your cart. What Next? Go to Checkout Browse the Store · First · Previous · News · Next · New · Share on Twitter · Share on Facebook · Subscribe to RSS. Marvelous Heroism. First · Previous · News · Next · New · Share on Twitter …


Mind control. Tricky subject in any RPG, let alone Fate, but I've got supers on my mind, and when you get to someone like Emma Frost, these things come up. How to handle it?

* Use Will to set a Mind-controlled aspect on someone, then pay a Fate Point to compel it? Seems a bit harsh.

* Stunt, or stunts?

* What about that image I linked? How to get a herd of npc innocents to toe the line or (in another example) all simultaneously bliss out in some kind of hedonistic hallucination. (Touches on illusions and how to get people to buy into them.)

If this has been gone over a hundred times, please don't hesitate to point me that direction. 


2013-06-04 10.46.06.png
Shared with Dropbox

Testing the Google+blog plugin with a public #gaming post about the tabletop/hangouts…

Testing the Google+blog plugin with a public #gaming post about the tabletop/hangouts game I'm playing in this weekend.

"In the not too distant future, an alien race invaded the Earth and threatened to enslave humanity. But soon after their arrival, and subsequent announcement of their intentions, the first SPB (Super Powered Being) showed himself. He saved Manhattan, spurning other SPBs to action across the globe. Together, they saved humanity from enslavement… for a while."

"One of their number, formerly the most devoted to the fight for freedom, changed his name to Despot and killed the rest of his team. Within a month, he and his trusted cohorts took over the north american continent. They enslaved humanity under the "rightful rule" of an SPB aristocracy. Under Despot's watchful eye, and direct order, the most savage crimes against humanity have been committed."

"Ten years later. The situation has only grown worse, with many superhumans being added to the fold as the lower class expands to include all but the most powerful SPBs. The genocide has gone on long enough. The United Nations of Humanity have announced their intent to overthrow Despot, but know they do not have the ability to do so. If he is to be overthrown, it is to be from within, by an SPB resistance."

Book Review: John Scalzi’s Old Man’s War

I’ve got another book review up at This one’s on Old Man’s War, which I went years without reading despite (or maybe because of) the great reviews. It took meeting John at a mutual book signing to get me to take the plunge.

One of those cool oil painting covers that has nothing to do with the story.

But that’s not why I’m excited about sharing it. Every time I write a review, I get a pile of great book and RPG suggestions from readers, and I’m looking forward to more. Greedy? Maybe. Don’t care. 🙂

Check it out and let me know what you think, and what you think I should be reading.

Eve Forever

I have trouble explaining to my non-Eve-playing gamer friends what it is about the game that I find so compelling. It’s everything. It’s one little thing. It’s that other little thing that I love, except when I hate it. It’s the people, because they’re awesome. It’s the people, because they’re horrible.

It’s… complicated.

I’ve been playing for two and a half years, and I still find myself sort of chuckling every few days as I mutter “I am so bad at this game.” I just try to enjoy the time I have and do better than the day before. There are worse things to take away from a game, I guess.


If I am asked to explain it – to sum up the backstory, or to convey the adrenaline dump from a good fight, or the goosebumps I get when I catch a glimpse of the sheer scope of a game created as much by the players as the company – from here on out, I’m just going to show people the Origins video.

Semi Eve-related, semi book-related

A few weeks ago, I noticed a call for book reviewers over at, a website that focuses mostly on sci-fi MMO gaming, especially Eve and Dust and things of that nature.

They asked potential reviewers to write up a ‘test review’ and submit a list of what we thought were good books, so they’d know if our choice of reviews was going to be terrible.

So I wrote up a review of Altered Carbon, put together my desert-island list, and sent it off.

A few days later, this:

You own. Your sample review owned, the Altered Carbon trilogy is a favorite of mine, and you’re hired.

So I got all set up, the CSS for the book review template was wrestled into shape, and today my review — the same one I submitted for the application — is up. I’m glad I got to open with Altered Carbon; it’s one of my all-time favorites and a fantastic examination of what one’s “self” means in a era of body- and clone-swapping. Highly recommended, even if you don’t play a certain internet spaceship game.

Check out the review, if you like, and let me know what you think! I’m really looking forward to doing these in the future.


Life in Eve: Notebook

My notes from last night, unadorned:

Roam with CB, Em, and Shan. CB in a slicer doing most of the scouting, plex checking, and war target tackling. In his words, ‘barn storming’, which he liked. Shan did a bit too, but his Slasher was using was more for brawls and offensive plexing, not fast tackle. My Vengeance wasn’t useful; the target I hoped for didn’t show, and it’s so godawful slow.

Basically just tried to get everyone out there and scouting, so we all get more used to it. Went smoothly (better than Tuesday), though no kills. (CB points out: no losses either.)

Several ships tackled/hassled, but everyone either rabbited before we got to them or warped out after we had tackle, thanks to warp stabs. Jade: “I’ve never seen anything like this.” Think he’s starting to see my frustration.

After the guys took off for the night, hopped in a Slasher and played scout for JR’s roam, back from null-sec and cruising around the war zone. Snagged a Vexor right away, and took another hour doing a loop south and losing a Vengeance (ironic) to a Harbinger bait trap with five other battlecruisers waiting in the wings.

Life in Eve: How to Kill Joy-sucking Faction Warfare Farmers #eveonline

So one of the more annoying (albeit small) problems with Faction Warfare that I mentioned yesterday is the fact that “running” complexes (either offensively or defensively) is, about 90% of the time, done by guys flying small, cheap ships that are built to tank damage, move fast, and let’s-not-even-bother-with-guns. This post details the basic process (and what to do with the loyalty points you make), but since then people have… let’s say “honed” the basic idea.

See, while the MLYT version works, it’s got — from a risk-adverse farmer’s point of view — a fatal flaw: it’s an armor-tanked ship, and as such, all of its low slots are devoted to tank, which means it can’t also fit Warp Core Stabilizers that will prevent anyone from tackling it and holding it on the battlefield. Well, we can’t have THAT.

I was going to post up a theoretical fitting for a ship like that, but I don’t want to waste the screen space on it. The basic idea is: Take a Merlin, then add an Afterburner, one or two Medium Ancillary shield boosters for an active tank, three Warp Core Stabilizers in the lows, and whatever rigs seem useful or necessary.

Suffice it to say you can spot a lot of Merlins on d-scan in the war zones.

I happen to love the Merlin, and it makes me sad to see it used for such lame activities. It is a noble ship, and worthy of much better things.

It behooves us, when we see such injustice, to put the poor thing out of its misery.

But how?
The problem with this type of ship is that it’s very good at what it does, which is:

  • Orbit a structure fast enough to mitigate most damage and repair the rest.
  • Leave when anyone shows up to interfere.

With the original YLMT ship, it was hard enough to catch the damn things — anyone even half awake could warp out as soon as they saw you on short-range scan. With the Warp-stabbed version it’s even worse, because you might actually get in on top of an inattentive pilot, and he’ll STILL get away, because you didn’t bring enough tackle to hold him down.

So, in order to liberate the Enslaved Merlins of Farm Warfare, we require a ship with almost the same degree of singular focus in its design as the farmer-frigates it hunts.

Our challenges:

  • Quick travel times. We’re going to be roaming all over faction warfare, looking for targets, and we want to do so quickly and with as little interference from third parties as possible.
  • Fast closing speed. Bottom line, we aren’t going to catch a pilot who’s paying close attention to directional scan. A skittish farmer will see us when we land on the acceleration gate that leads into a complex and warp away. Some won’t, though, either out of laziness (hoping we won’t actually come after them) or lack of attention, which gives us a chance when we land inside the complex. Once on-grid, we are much more likely to be noticed, and we need to get on top of our opponent before they can react; we need the speed of an interceptor in the affordable chassis of a cheap frigate.
  • Tackle, and then some more tackle. In short, we need enough tackle to negate a whole rack of low-slots loaded with warp core stabilizers.
  • Enough damage to finish the job. Our targets will be fit to tank a bunch of NPCs, so you will have to patiently whittle down their tanks until they run out of power or need to reload their capacitor boosters. Upside: You shouldn’t be taking any damage from them as this is going on, so your own tank can range from ‘thin’ to ‘nonexistent’.

Also, we want the build to be cheap (no extra-strength Faction warp scramblers that cost 14 times more than the rest of the ship), and able to get into any complex in the war zone (no Interceptors).

With these goals in mind, I’ve come up with a couple options.

[Atron, Burn the Farm]
Damage Control II
Overdrive Injector System II
Nanofiber Internal Structure II

Warp Scrambler II
Limited 1MN MicroWarpdrive I
Warp Scrambler II

Light Neutron Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
Light Neutron Blaster II, Caldari Navy Antimatter Charge S
[empty high slot]

Small Polycarbon Engine Housing I
Small Hybrid Burst Aerator I
Small Hybrid Metastasis Adjuster I

The Atron makes a fine steed for your crusade.

  • Quick travel times. Attack frigates warp fairly quickly for ships of their tech level — all we’ll really need to worry about is how fast we get IN to warp, so as to avoid gangs and gate camps while we pursue our calling. This particular fit get into warp in 2.1 seconds.
  • Fast closing speed. With overheating, this little Atron can push over 6600 meters per second, which is enough to get from the warp-in-point to the complex beacon in roughly 10 seconds (depending on the size of the complex). You can lock your opponent about five seconds into that rush, and tackle them about as soon as the lock finishes.
  • Tackle. I don’t like this part of the fit for two reasons — one, I’d rather have one long point and one short scrambler, or better yet a web and a scambler, but that’s not enough tackle to stop our heavily warp-stabilized farmer, so this is what we have to do. The main problem here is that a farmer with an afterburner can still keep trying to escape at his full speed, which means we’ll have to pulse our microwarpdrive to keep up and keep him tackled.
  • Damage. This fit does around 155 dps, which is more than enough to finish a farmer frigate quite efficiently. Bring more ammo than you would for a normal PvP fight, since you’ll need to wear through a ship that relies on a strong, cap-booster-supported tank.

All in all, a good ship; nimble and hard-hitting.

Let’s try one more:

[Slasher, I Come for My People]
Damage Control II
Overdrive Injector System II

Warp Scrambler II
Experimental 1MN Afterburner I
Warp Scrambler II
Limited 1MN MicroWarpdrive I

150mm Light AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma S
150mm Light AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma S
150mm Light AutoCannon II, Republic Fleet Phased Plasma S
Small Energy Neutralizer II

Small Polycarbon Engine Housing I
Small Projectile Burst Aerator I
Small Ancillary Current Router I

Let’s just sum this up relative to the Atron:

  • Travel. Lacking some of the agility mods of the Atron, this Slasher gets into warp just a shade slower (2.3 seconds) but it’s still quite quick out of the blocks.
  • Fast? Again, it’s a hair slower than the Atron, pulling 6200 meters per second while overheating, but still quite fast.
  • Tackle. This is where the Slasher has an advantage over an Atron, as the fourth slot lets you address the issue of holding an afterburner-fit farming frigate down. I’ve opted for a dual-propulsion solution, which lets you switch to the afterburner once you have the ship tackled, easily running circles around the tackled ship, but you could accomplish pretty much the same thing with a webifier in that fourth slot. As an added bonus, the Slasher can easily run a Small Energy Neutralizer, which should let you shut off their afterburner in a cycle or two. You can’t run it permanently in this fit, but you shouldn’t need to.
  • Damage. The Slasher boasts about 65% of the Atron’s damage output, but you can afford to be patient — with superior tackle to the Atron, the ship isn’t going anywhere, and eventually the farmer will run out of cap boosters… bring lots of ammo.

I generally prefer my ships to be a little more versatile than this — these builds aren’t good for much but the job I’ve laid out here, as they are too fragile for proper PvP and somewhat too easy for bigger ships to blow up in a fleet environment — however, I could easily see myself spending an evening banging around the war zone in a ship like this, terrorizing farmers, freeing Merlins from ignoble service, and humming a jaunty tune. It would be fun.

And really, what more can you ask?

My Reddit “Ask Me Anything” is Today!

Like the title says, today (well, at 7pm central) I will be on Reddit answering All The Things during an AMA or “Ask Me Anything.”

The basic idea is quite simple. I make a post to start things off, the ENTIRE INTERNET shows up and asks me stuff, and this evening I answer their questions.

If you have a Reddit account, I’d encourage you to drop in and ask something (because five random questioners will win a copy of Hidden Things).

If you do not have a Reddit account, I’d encourage you to make one and then drop in and ask something (because five random questioners will win a copy of Hidden Things).

So: possibility of free stuff for the low low price of bugging me on the internet. WHERE IS THE DOWNSIDE?

Hidden Things Release Week News

Things are going to be very crazy around Casa Testerman this week, and rather than just going radio silent, I figured I’d at least let you guys know what’s going on.

So Hidden Things officially releases tomorrow — I’ve gotten a lot of messages from people telling me that they’ve gotten notification their preorders are on the way, which is both very scary and very exciting. There have been quite a few reviews posted already (more on that in another post), but obviously that doesn’t compare to the number of people about to put their eyeballs on the story — I really have no idea what the end result of all that is going to be, so I’m going to focus on what’s going on right now.

“Right Now” Means…

Today, the Once and Future Podcast has a new podcast up, and it’s me, talking about Hidden Things! Well, it’s me and Anton Stout, and we’re talking about Hidden Things, Adrift, writing, City of Heroes, Tolkein, Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, MMOs, fan fiction, lego, Skylanders, tabletop gaming, dice obsessions, and pretty much every other nerdy thing you can pack into an hour and ten minutes.

Wednesday, I will be reading and talking and signing books at the Tattered Cover, a great Colorado indie bookstore. This will be my first public reading, ever, which means I will probably screw it up in some kind of hilarious fashion, and you should totally stop by to point and laugh and post pictures on Facebook.

Thursday, I will be doing an AMA, or “Ask Me Anything” session on Reddit’s r/Fantasy, organized by the fine moderators of that subreddit. I will have more about this as we get closer to go-time, but as a pretty rabid redditor I have to say that I’m incredibly geeked-out and excited about this, and I sincerely hope THE ENTIRE INTERNET shows up to ask me questions about… you know… whatever. I mean, it’s supposed to be about writing, and Hidden Things and probably NaNoWriMo and gaming stuff but… whatever.

Thursday will also see me drop by for an interview with Chuck Wendig on (direct link when it goes up), which will include a short story that I’ll be hosting here. Also, I’ll be countering his baseless slander and accusations with an interview of my own, with Chuck, posted up here on the same day.

Friday, I’ll be doing a reading/signing up at Fireside Books in Fort Collins, another great indie bookseller. I’m excited about this one as well, especially since I really have no idea what to expect from this event, in terms of visitors and audience.

Next week, I’ll also be over at the Qwillery as part of their 2012 Debut Author Challenge.

The object of the 2012 Debut Author Challenge is for participants to read at least 12 debut novels during 2012 – one from each month of the year though you may read them anytime between January 1, 2012 and December 31, 2012.

(Last week, Hidden Things won the Qwillery’s 2012 Debut Author Challenge August “Cover Wars”, which I’m really happy about even though I had nothing to do with it — it’s just cool that other people liked it as much as I do.)

That’s it for now — I’m still trying to sort out September events coming up, but stay tuned.


I meant to post this morning,but the need to actually make a flight interfered. Still, funny, and the new missile effects are very cool.

Life in a Wormhole: Winning at Eve Blogging #eveonline

When I first started playing EvE about a year ago, it was an investigative role on behalf of MMO Reporter, and my editor asked CCP to give me some game time so I could really dig in and write some articles.

Quite unexpectedly, they set my main account up for a year of play time, which was a bit of a shock, as I’d only intended to write a few EvE-related articles for the site in question.

Once those articles were done, I felt a bit… obligated, I guess. I’d been ‘paid’ a year’s worth of time for a couple week’s worth of writing, and I enjoyed the game, so I just… started writing about whatever I could think of to write, using my own gaming-related website as a repository for all of it (and overwhelming the non-EvE-related stuff in the process). That these posts have been well-received by the EvE community was an unexpected but welcome bonus.

There’s a meme that circulates around the EvE playerbase wherein a player is said to be winning at EvE when they unsubscribe from the game. The particularly optimistic and/or confident ex-player might expand on that to claim that they have actually beaten EvE, but most won’t do that, because such statements have a way of being proven wrong, given enough time.

Over the last year, I’ve helped quite a few “winning” players start losing at EvE again, and that’s something I’m really kind of happy about. For whatever reason, these little stories about our misadventures in Anoikis inspire old players to return to the game, and convince new players to give it a try. That’s good — it makes me feel that I’ve repayed CCP in kind. I love hearing from those players, which I do on a fairly regular basis.

Unfortunately, this type of nigh-daily blogging is, for me, coming to a close.

My year’s worth of play-time and, thus, the ‘pay’ I got to write regularly about EvE is just about used up, and while I’ve contacted CCP to request an extension, I’ve been (nicely) informed this blog isn’t really a professional media outlet (agreed), and as a result a media account doesn’t make sense for them.

Fair enough.

I’m still going to play, obviously; I really enjoy the game, but that sense of writing obligation is gone. As a general rule, I get paid to write, and if I’m putting time into writing something that I’m not getting paid for when there’s paying work waiting on my desk — well, that’s just irresponsible. So I’ll be tabling the daily EvE posts for the foreseeable future.

My non-EvE-playing friends (all of whom have been reading this blog for much longer than I’ve been writing about EvE) just heaved a long sigh of relief.

What sort of EvE stuff will I continue to post?

Mainly, articles that strike me as interesting enough to do just-because.

Aside from that, I’m going to continue to document my day to day misadventures via Twitter, in a mini-diary format of which I’m very fond. It’s not as detailed, but it’s often a bit more fun (and sometimes quicker) to write, and leaves room for some good conversations when people ask for more details. You can find the Twitter feed at Life in EvE — I’ve taken the not-insubstantial time to back-fill it with the full Life in a Wormhole timeline and begun posting new stuff. I hope that if you enjoyed the posts here, you’ll enjoy this new thing as well.

I expect I will.

Eve Online: My Year in Review

This is going to be one of those posts that isn’t time-delayed, due to the subject matter.

I just noticed that I started playing Eve one year and one day ago. January 22nd, 2011 marked my return to EvE to give it another try after failing to find anything of interest over four years previous.

It’s the fact that both of my main characters are only a year old that makes me kind of shake my head in bemusement every time someone asks me for any kind of advice, and why I rarely give any advice or write guides.

So if you’ll indulge me a moment, I’d like to take a look at where I am and what I’ve managed to accomplish.


  • Ty, my first main, has focused mainly on cruisers and battlecruisers. He can fly a battleship if needs must, but so far at least it really hasn’t been his thing. His skills focus mostly on Gallente and Minmatar ships (with a distinct preference for Minmatar, though he’s Gallente himself), but he can fly passably in pretty much any race’s ships, and suspect he will eventually be able to fly all the sub-capital ships of all four races. The thing I’m most happy about with his progression so far is getting to some major goals right at the end of the year with the advanced cruisers. Ty can fly both Minmatar and Gallente Heavy Assault Cruisers, Recon Cruisers, Logistics Cruisers, and Strategic Cruisers. I’ve still got a ways to go to full mastery on several of the more recent acquisitions, but I’m past the point where I’m embarassing myself by sitting in one with a booster seat on to get my head up even with the steering wheel. My main goal with him in the coming year is to really master the cruiser hulls — Level Five in All The Things, as they say. We’ll see how that goes.
  • Bre, my second main, is a bit of a weird bird. She started out as a scanning alt, but with a big skill point boost thanks to being the character I made up four years ago, she quickly drew even to Ty in skill points and demanded some projects of her own. She’s pretty solid in science, research, and electronic warfare of all kinds, but my personal project was her was frigates, and I saw that goal reached about the same time Ty got his cruiser goals met: Bre can fly every single race’s frigates at level five, and can fly all the tech2 variants of those frigates as well, from Interceptors to Assault Ships to Electronic Attack ships to Stealth Bombers. In addition, she has the support skills to complement those types of ships, and can use the tech 2 versions of every type of weapon system that can logically be fit to any of those ships.  If it’s small and fast, she’s pretty damned good at it.
  • Berke came to the party a bit later than the other two, and he had one purpose: to fly an Orca. I wanted someone to follow Ty and Bre around as they wandered around New Eden, hauling extra fittings and spare ships like a one-man caravan, and Berke was that guy. But when we moved into wormholes, priorities changed and Berke, who’d gotten quite good enough at Orca and other industrial piloting by that point in time, branched out into other useful support skills: he’s recently gotten all the advanced Leadership skills to a high level, and between that and some of his more esoteric skills (he can’t fly a combat ship, but he’s a dab hand with a tower gunnery array), he’s become a real asset — a great booster for a fleet of any kind. He’s my team player, my never-asks-for-a-thank-you guy and, in all seriousness, a hell of an Orca pilot.

What We’ve Done

I didn’t come into EvE saying “I want to live in a wormhole,” but I’m really glad that that’s how things worked out. Our corporation colonized a system, then joined a larger alliance and, through them, met our new friends in the Home System. It’s a situation I might have hoped for with no real expectation that it could happen in a cutthroat game like EvE, but it did happen, and I’m lucky for it.

Between Ty, Bre, and Berke (scanning Orca FTW), I’ve visited over 400 wormhole system in a little over half a year. I’ve made… well, a lot of ISK, and spent almost as much. I’ve even helped defend our system from invaders, blearily watching the scanning window for any sign of enemy activity in the wee hours of the night (more on that in a few weeks).

TL;DR: I’ve had a pretty damned good time.

SOPA and PIPA Damage This Site

Random Average will be back tomorrow.

Today, may I suggest you ponder how much of the internet that you use every day would or could be tampered with, damaged, or completely destroyed because of SOPA and PIPA? This site is on the list.

Don’t know what SOPA or PIPA are? Educate yourself. Learn more here.

PROTECT IP / SOPA Breaks The Internet from Fight for the Future on Vimeo.

We’ll be back tomorrow with a couple posts. See you then. I’ve got a few other sites, like, to black out.

Life in a Wormhole: Day-tripping #eveonline

A few days ago in the comments, Ko asked:

Question, when day tripping, at what point do you say “thanks but no thanks” to a hole? It seems that most holes spawning into High Sec space are occupied, regardless of how many sites left. They are positively littered with POSes and more often than not, ships.

I’ve been probing down with cov-ops, peeking inside and running a quick passive and d-scan. If ships are present I’ll pull out the probes. I then run back to high sec for the Drake if things look nice. I’ve been lucky so far, but after a close call a few days ago (got tackled by an assault frig with his friends in-bound.) I’m wondering what I can do to increase my security.

I feel like I’m being stretched 5 ways from Friday trying to keep an eye on the d-scan while running sites and keeping myself aligned to a celestial or safe spot, and I’m at loathe to run a cloak on the Drake since I’ve already got a probe launcher and salvager.

Really, really good question I’m probably going to answer poorly.

At what point do you say “thanks but no thanks” to a hole?

The short answer: “If there’s any kind of activity.”

That doesn’t mean “if you see Towers”, or “if you see ships”. It means you see ships, and there’s pilots in them, especially if they’re doing stuff. (Really, the only way to tell if there’s pilots in them is if you can tell they’re moving around, or by getting on grid with them, which means finding their tower and looking at them. If the overview shows you a Drake in one column, but a player name in the other column, it’s piloted. If it says the ship type in both columns, it’s just floating there.)

The long answer: You should cancel your original plans of shooting sleepers if you see online pilots in system, for sure, although it’s possible that you can make new plans that involve doing pointy things to the pilots. By yourself, you won’t be able to do much, but mugging a lax miner or a badger out collecting planet goo is a fun change of pace, and maybe you’ll scare him into logging off so you can shoot sleepers in peace. If you have a couple friends online, you might even be able to lure a guy into attacking you and ambushing him.

It seems that most holes spawning into High Sec space are occupied, regardless of how many sites left. They are positively littered with POSes and more often than not, ships.

I would say that at least 9 of every 10 wormholes I encounter are occupied to some degree, yes. Keep in mind I’m talking mostly about Class 2 and Class 1 systems, but given that Class 2s are the most numerous type, this is indicative.

With that said, “occupied” isn’t the same thing as “active”. A few minutes of poking around when you get into a system will tell you a lot about what’s really going on there. If you do a passive scan (using your onboard scanner), do you see a lot of anomalies? If so, these guys either aren’t terribly active, or they just aren’t there for the Sleepers (they’re doing gas reactions, or making tech3 cruisers or something).

You can also tell by the modules they have on their towers. Are there a lot of silos and coupling arrays? Then they’re doing some kind of industry. Online ship assemblies (or ammo or drones or whatever)? Building stuff. Is it nothing but guns and a few hangars? They shoot stuff.

And as I said, just because you see a lot of ships doesn’t mean anyone’s online. Lots of people are very sloppy and just leave their stuff floating inside the tower shields. The only way to tell for sure is to get on-grid with the tower and look, and that means finding the tower first. More on that in a bit.

I’m wondering what I can do to increase my security.

Okay, so here’s me, coming into a system for the first time. I’m not day-tripping, but aside from that, nothing is really different, nor should it be.

I’m outside the wormhole, cloaked. I bookmark it. I have the scanning window up, and I have the in-game browser open and minimized. The homepage of my browser is set to

I approach the wormhole and jump.

I am on the other side. I have less than a minute before my the ‘jump cloak’ drops. I check my overview (which is currently set for basic PvP and tower-hunting) and hit both my ship’s passive scanner and d-scan. I open the browser window and tell wormnav to update to my current position (something it can only do if it’s open in your in-game browser).

Bookmark this side of the wormhole.

I now have data to analyze. Assuming no one is sitting immediately on the wormhole, I align to convenient celestial and immediately cloak. Maybe I jump somewhere to sit at a safe spot, or maybe I keep flying off in random directions while cloaked. Up to you. Time to analyze the data I have.

1. Passive scan: Least-important, but fastest to analyze. Are there anomalies here? “Few or none.” means this system is actively occupied, or has very hungry visitors. “A half-dozen or so” means they occupants aren’t very active, or they’re very inactive and someone cleaned them out a few days ago. “Many” means they’re inactive and haven’t been visited recently. “OMG it’s full of stars” means no one lives here. Jackpot.

2. D-scan. Any ships or towers? If ships AND towers, they’re probably together. If ships and no towers, uncheck ‘use my overview settings’ and re-d-scan, looking for wrecks. If you see wrecks and ships, they’re shooting sleepers. No wrecks might mean mining, gas harvesting, Planetary Interaction, space rugby, or … hell, lots of stuff. If Tower and no ship, probably everyone’s asleep. Make sure your overview is set to also show you force fields; if you see a tower but no forcefield, it’s abandoned.

If you see no ships or towers, open your system map and see which planets with moons are more than 14AU from you. You will need to warp to those planets (NOT THE MOONS) and refresh d-scan in that area until you have d-scanned the whole system.

Do that even if you initially find a tower. There may be more.

Rule 0: there is a tower. There is always a tower.

3. Wormnav. This page will tell you lots of things about the system, but mostly you’re looking for the readouts in the middle that tell you about recent jump activity (random, far-flung spikes indicates visitors-only; lots of consistent jumping means occupants that are active), NPC shooting in the last week or so (indicates activity), and PvP ship and POD kills.

If you see ship and pod kills, reconsider sticking around, unless you’re looking for a fight.

If you see ship and pod kills, go to the bottom of wormnav and open up the battleclinic link for more details. Maybe it’s the locals who get shot up all the time; that’s not bad news.

If you see very little activity, then things are looking pretty good for you.

Let’s have a look at that tower. (Or those towers.)

Directional scan is called that for a reason. At this point, it’s time to figure out where the towers are and go look at them. Change the ‘angle’ of your d-scan down to about 15 degrees and swing your camera around so that a planetary cluster within d-scan range is dead-center, then scan.

Do you see the tower on the results? If yes, then the tower is at one of those planet’s moons. Warp to that planet at some random distance (not 0 and not 100). If no, repeat this with each planet until you get a ‘yes’.

Once in orbit around the planet, swing your camera around to point at each of the planet’s moons, d-scanning each, until you figure out which moon is concurrent with the tower. That’s your moon.

Make sure your d-scan is showing you EVERYTHING, then scan again, looking for a lot of secure containers, abandoned drones, or corpses, concurrent with mobile warp disruptor bubbles. Such things equal traps meant to snag and decloak you. Be wary.

Warp to the moon and check out the tower. See if the ships are piloted. “Show info” on the tower, check out the owning corp and alliance, and see what their corp info says. Look up the corp and alliance on the battleclinic kill boards. Google them. See if they have a website. Do your research.

Repeat this for every tower where you see ships.

Is everyone logged out? Are you alone?




You may deploy scanning probes.

Wormnav will tell you how many wormholes there should be in the system. Use your scanning probes and verify there aren’t more than that, but don’t visit them if you have the right number and want to keep the system quiet.

So: Are we cool? All things are right in the world?

Now you can go get your Drake. Hopefully, all of this hasn’t taken more than an hour or so. If you’re lucky, or you get good at it, it’ll be about 20 minutes, top to bottom. (Yes, it takes a tedious amount of time. I’ve said as much. C’est la EvE.)

What if there isn’t a tower?

There is always a tower.

If you really think there isn’t, drop a single combat scanner probe, set it to 64 au, and scan the whole system.

If you don’t get any hits but you, congratulations: You either just found your new home, or are about to make about 300 million isk or more from selling the system’s location.

I feel like I’m being stretched 5 ways from Friday trying to keep an eye on the d-scan while running sites and keeping myself aligned to a celestial or safe spot.

You’re doing it right, mostly. Solo, daytripping into a wormhole, you need to land on the site, align to a celestial, keep moving, and be ready to warp away to that celestial the moment you see anything weird on d-scan (which window should simply never be closed, and which you should be hitting every 10 to 15 seconds, at minimum.

Don’t salvage on that Drake, though; not while you’re solo and fighting (if you have friends with you, one of them can salvage as they fight, if they’re very good at it, but don’t expect them to watch d-scan). Bookmark a wreck as you keep moving and killing. When everything’s dead, warp to another site and keep going, or warp away somewhere and wait, or warp home for a salvaging ship. In 20 minutes or less, the site will despawn. (You’ll know it has if you try to warp to the wreck and DO NOT see the little pop-up message.) Don’t salvage until it’s despawned. Preferably, do it in a dedicated salvaging boat, because it’s better to do it faster and get out, and frankly one salvager on a properly tanked Drake will take WAY too long.

The reason you wait for the despawn is because anyone in the world can find you with no probes in an active anomaly (they need only d-scan and the passive scanner), but in a despawned anomaly, they must use probes, and that gives you a layer of protection and a few more seconds of warning.

And if you have someone following behind you to salvage, try not to do what these guys did.

Hope that helps. More good questions and bad answers in the comments…

Life in a Wormhole: “How do I shot teh Sleepers?” #eveonline

Those of you who don’t really play EVE and just read this stuff to see what I got blown up this week might want to either skip this post, or just read the bits that aren’t in text-blocks.

This post is a bit of a departure from my normal day-in-the-life post series in two ways.

First, it’s intended as something of a guide, which isn’t something I normally do (or really feel that qualified to do).

Second, it’s not time-shifted; unlike my regular posts, which recount events that have already gone past, this particular post exists due to the fact that we have some new players in EVE who are thinking about joining us in Wormhole Misadventures, and are trying to figure out what kind of ships they need to train for RIGHT NOW.

(Related: the ships I list below will, in general, not be the leet tech2 and tech3 hulls that are so popular in wormholes — this guide is written for the newcomer to a lower-class wormhole like a class 1 or class 2, and as such, you’re not going to see me cover good fittings for a Tengu Strategic Cruiser.)

So, this post is about what kind of ships, VERY SPECIFICALLY, to bring in a wormhole as a relatively new player and (again, very specifically) how to fit them so you don’t immediately explode.

“Probes Going Out”

In a minute, I’m going to get into the ship category everyone wants to know about: PvE or “Sleeper-shooting” ships, but I want to make this point very clear: this is NOT the most important category of ship for life in a wormhole. That distinction goes, without doubt, to your dedicated scanning ship. If you can’t scan, you’re dead. If you can’t scan reasonably well, in fact, you have no goddamn business in a wormhole, and I’m not talking about your character’s skills; YOU, the player, must be able to competently manipulate the scanning interface, and that means you need to practice. You can’t just sit on your ass until your corpmates do the work and hand you some bookmarks; you’re not a tapeworm, for fuck’s sake: Get scanning.

Seriously: if you can’t scan, you shouldn’t be in a wormhole. You’re a danger to yourself and a dead fucking albatross to everyone around you.

I’ll talk more about scanning ships in a later post.

I Run Level Four Missions, I Know How to Shoot NPCs

With all due respect: No, you don’t. When it comes to Sleepers, you are a rank amateur, and if you bring in the stuff you are used to flying in New Eden missions, you will lose that shiny ship in a few minutes. In known space, you will fight npc opponents who are generally vulnerable to specific types of damage, and who do specific types of damage, so fighting them (and fitting your ships to deal with them) is relatively simple: shoot them where they’re weak, defend yourself against their best attacks, and you’re fine. Only the Sansha forces in Incursions — the toughest NPC opponents in New Eden — don’t work this way.

And of course Sleepers don’t work that way. They hit you with every kind of damage type, which means you can’t leave any defensive holes, and they hit you HARD, which means your defenses have to be both all-inclusive AND strong. Further, they don’t have any real defensive holes*, and they both self-repair and remote rep their allies, which means that while you have to gimp your damage a bit to get your defenses up to snuff, you can’t hinder your offense too much or you just won’t be able to kill the frakking things.

So, we’re talking about cheap reasonably affordable ships that can take a pretty good pounding (tanking around 350dps with mediocre skills) and dish out a reasonable pounding in return.

It might be nice to think that you can jump into a cruiser with a big thick tank on and go poking around in wormholes, but the fact of the matter is, there’s really very few tech 1 ships in this class that can survive a sleeper assault.

The trick is working out a balancing act between resists and recovery. Your tank needs to recover fast, and it needs to sport some pretty powerful resistances to all damage types, and unless the ship already comes with some good solid resists right out of the box, you’ll have to spend so much fitting space getting the resists to up par that you won’t have the room to get the Recovery where it needs to be. This is a real problem on cruisers, because they have fewer fitting slots to work with, compared to their big battlecruiser brothers, and at this point the only tech1 cruiser I’ve been able work out that can survive in a sleeper combat situation is the Caldari’s Moa-class cruiser.

(Yes, the Amarr have a cruiser with a bonus to armor resists, but it doesn’t have enough fitting space to give you a sustainable omni-damage tank. The Moa is your only tech1 cruiser option.)

[Moa, I Just Want to Come See a Wormhole and Not Die]
Shield Power Relay II
Shield Power Relay II
Shield Power Relay II
Shield Power Relay II

Large Shield Extender II
Large Shield Extender II
Large Shield Extender II
Invulnerability Field II

‘Malkuth’ Standard Missile Launcher I, Piranha Light Missile
‘Malkuth’ Standard Missile Launcher I, Piranha Light Missile
425mm Medium Carbine Repeating Cannon I, Depleted Uranium M
425mm Medium Carbine Repeating Cannon I, Depleted Uranium M
425mm Medium Carbine Repeating Cannon I, Depleted Uranium M
425mm Medium Carbine Repeating Cannon I, Depleted Uranium M

Medium Core Defence Field Purger I
Medium Core Defence Field Purger I
Medium Core Defence Field Purger I

Hobgoblin II x3

The thing with the Moa is its really remarkable baseline shield resists and a pretty good slot layout for a tank. This sucker is TOUGH: with a well-skilled pilot, it can easily ignore anything a class2 wormhole can bring to bear. What this ship isn’t is mean; it’s damage is mediocre, trending to weak — it probably couldn’t solo even the easiest of the class1 sites, but that’s not the point — it’s a stopgap kind of ship that lets you come visit your wormholing buddies, and since it’s Caldari, you’re probably training to one of the great workhorses of Wormhole living, the Drake battlecruiser. In the meantime, your job is going to be killing the close-range frigates that are orbiting your buddies and annoying them with energy draining.

(Note, though, that this Moa build doesn’t use Caldari railguns, but Minmatar projectile weapons — sorry, but you can’t maintain that amazing tank without using guns that don’t hit your capacitor. Them’s the breaks. You might as well train for Projectiles anyway: they’re pretty much better than Rails and Blasters in every respect.)

As an added bonus, if you *do* happen to fly one of these as a training-wheels-on wormhole ship, you can retask the thing later for other non-combat things when your skills improve; the Moa makes a fine-if-not-great gas cloud harvester (and can basically just ignore the piddly little sleeper frigates that show up in class 2 gas clouds), or with even less tweaking can be used to salvage Sleeper wrecks WHILE your buddies are still in combat, making it one of the few cheap(ish) salvaging ships that won’t explode the moment a sleeper sneezes in their direction.

So talk to me about Battlecruisers

Battlecruisers come in two Tiers. The first tier battlecruisers look cooler (and are good for PvP). The 2nd tier battlecruisers are better for killing sleepers. That’s just how it works. The only Sleeper-killing tier1 battlecruiser exception is the (again, Caldari) Ferox, thanks to the shield resist bonuses that it shares with its big brother the Drake.

[Ferox, “I fly Caldari But I don’t like Missiles”]
Magnetic Field Stabilizer II
Shield Power Relay II
Shield Power Relay II
Shield Power Relay II

Large Shield Extender II
Large Shield Extender II
Large Shield Extender II
Invulnerability Field II
Invulnerability Field II

Dual 150mm Compressed Coil Gun I, Uranium Charge M
Dual 150mm Compressed Coil Gun I, Uranium Charge M
Dual 150mm Compressed Coil Gun I, Uranium Charge M
Dual 150mm Compressed Coil Gun I, Uranium Charge M
Dual 150mm Compressed Coil Gun I, Uranium Charge M
Dual 150mm Compressed Coil Gun I, Uranium Charge M
Core Probe Launcher I, Core Scanner Probe I

Medium Hybrid Burst Aerator I
Medium Core Defence Field Purger I
Medium Core Defence Field Purger I

Hobgoblin II x5

The damage on this ship isn’t bad, the tank is adequate (new pilots can put another field purger rig on for more tank), but it’s still kind of a head-scratcher, because if you can fly this, you can (or almost can) fly a Drake… and to be honest, you probably SHOULD. Still, if you want to save 10+ million isk on putting a ship together, and your rails skills are good, this works.

Since we’re already talking about Caldari, let’s talk very briefly about the Drake: Shield resists built into the ship. Tons of fitting slots for a shield tank. Weapons that don’t use capacitor power. Relatively inexpensive. Actually symmetrical. The Drake’s only downside is that they’re so goddamn common – they’re the Toyota Corolla of Wormholes – but they’re common for a reason.

[Drake, The Drake is Not Always Bait]
Shield Power Relay II
Shield Power Relay II
Shield Power Relay II
Ballistic Control System II

Invulnerability Field II
Target Painter II
Invulnerability Field II
Shield Recharger II
Large Shield Extender II
Large Shield Extender II

XR-3200 Heavy Missile Bay, Scourge Heavy Missile
XR-3200 Heavy Missile Bay, Scourge Heavy Missile
XR-3200 Heavy Missile Bay, Scourge Heavy Missile
XR-3200 Heavy Missile Bay, Scourge Heavy Missile
XR-3200 Heavy Missile Bay, Scourge Heavy Missile
XR-3200 Heavy Missile Bay, Scourge Heavy Missile
XR-3200 Heavy Missile Bay, Scourge Heavy Missile
Core Probe Launcher I, Core Scanner Probe I

Medium Core Defence Field Purger I
Medium Core Defence Field Purger I
Medium Core Defence Field Purger I

Hobgoblin I x5

The nice thing about this is that you can downgrade pretty much every tech2 module on this thing to some kind of tech1, ‘named’ module, and it can still tank most stuff in a class 2, which means if you can fly at Drake AT all, and fit anything kind of in the basic neighborhood of this fitting, you can survive well-enough (be ready to warp out just in case), and keep getting stronger and stronger as you continue to skill up.

That’s nice, but what if I don’t fly Caldari ships?

Well, every tier2 battlecruiser can tank a class two sleeper anomaly, but you might not always like how I get there. Let’s look at the options from the least objectionable to the most WTF.

[Hurricane, Passivecane (WH)]
Gyrostabilizer II
Shield Power Relay II
Shield Power Relay II
Shield Power Relay II
Shield Power Relay II
Damage Control II

Invulnerability Field II
Invulnerability Field II
Large Shield Extender II
Large Shield Extender II

650mm Medium Prototype I Siege Cannon, Fusion M
650mm Medium Prototype I Siege Cannon, Fusion M
650mm Medium Prototype I Siege Cannon, Fusion M
650mm Medium Prototype I Siege Cannon, Fusion M
650mm Medium Prototype I Siege Cannon, Fusion M
650mm Medium Prototype I Siege Cannon, Fusion M
Small Remote Armor Repair System I
Core Probe Launcher I, Core Scanner Probe I

Medium Core Defence Field Purger I
Medium Core Defence Field Purger I
Medium Core Defence Field Purger I

Hobgoblin II x4
Hammerhead II x1

The Hurricane is an excellent wormhole-running ship, and as an added bonus you can take a second one and fit it out for PvP — just don’t get the two mixed up, cuz they will each suck at the other’s job. Although the ‘cane is running one additional Invulnerability Field, it’s capacitor life is still about the same, thanks to… I dunno. Better cap regen than the Drake? Maybe? Maybe it’s just that awesome.

In any case, the tank is solid, the ship looks cool as hell, and the artillery cannons make really big booming noises. As usual, one utility high goes to an emergency “OMG all my buddies are dead and I need to scan a way out of here NOW” probe launcher, with the second utility slot going to a remote armor repper you can use between anomalies to repair your drones — hell of a lot cheaper than replacing them all the time.

What if you fly Gallente?

That means flying the Myrmidon, which would typically mean sporting an armor-repping tank, but it’s damn hard to make an armor-repping build work, thanks to the balancing act of Resist/Repair, so what I typically suggest is a shield-tanked version, using minmatar artillery cannons (since the ship doesn’t give you a damage bonus to any particular kind of guns anyway).

[Myrmidon, Minbari Artillery]
Gyrostabilizer II
Gyrostabilizer II
Shield Power Relay II
Shield Power Relay II
Shield Power Relay II
Shield Power Relay II

Large Shield Extender II
Large Shield Extender II
Large Shield Extender II
Invulnerability Field II
Invulnerability Field II

650mm Artillery Cannon I, Fusion M
650mm Artillery Cannon I, Fusion M
650mm Artillery Cannon I, Fusion M
650mm Artillery Cannon I, Fusion M
650mm Artillery Cannon I, Fusion M
Core Probe Launcher I, Core Scanner Probe I

Medium Core Defence Field Purger I
Medium Core Defence Field Purger I
Medium Core Defence Field Purger I

Hammerhead II x5
Hobgoblin II x5
Hornet EC-300 x5
Light Armor Maintenance Bot I x5
Warrior II x5

This is a tight fit, so if you may need to tweak this a bit to make it work, but it’s a solid, solid ship. Yes, I’m putting artillery cannons on yet another ship, but frankly projectile weapons are, pound for pound, better than both railguns and blasters, so as a Gallente pilot, you should continue training them.

Don’t blame me — Gallente guns are just fucking broken. That’s how it is right now, and how it has been for a long, long time.

Now with that said, it’s actually not impossible to make an armor-tanked version work (something you won’t find me saying very often), and CB has been known to roll out in this guy, which can compete with the shield-Myrm in tank+dps pretty much point for point, though the ratios are different:

[Myrmidon, RAILS, BITCHES]
Medium Armor Repairer II
Medium Armor Repairer II
Energized Adaptive Nano Membrane II
Armor Thermic Hardener II
Armor Kinetic Hardener II
Armor Explosive Hardener II

Cap Recharger II
Cap Recharger II
Cap Recharger II
Cap Recharger II
Cap Recharger II

200mm Prototype I Gauss Gun, Antimatter Charge M
200mm Prototype I Gauss Gun, Antimatter Charge M
200mm Prototype I Gauss Gun, Antimatter Charge M
200mm Prototype I Gauss Gun, Antimatter Charge M
200mm Prototype I Gauss Gun, Antimatter Charge M
200mm Prototype I Gauss Gun, Antimatter Charge M

Medium Nanobot Accelerator I
Medium Auxiliary Nano Pump I
Medium Capacitor Control Circuit I

Hammerhead II x5
Hobgoblin II x5
Ogre I x2
Hammerhead II x2
Hobgoblin II x1

Somehow – and damned if I know how – it’s even cap-stable. Just remember to switch to Uranium ammo when you’re going after frigates.

Finally, the Amarr.

Dear god, the Amarr…

Armor tanked, by preference, but with incredibly intensive power requirements, which make armor reppers difficult at the best of times, and pretty much impossible when you have to tank every kind of damage at once.

Nope: have to go shields. Luckily, the Harbinger doesn’t really have any armor-tanking bonuses, so he doesn’t seem to mind:

[Harbinger: Attitude Adjuster]
Damage Control II
Shield Power Relay II
Shield Power Relay II
Shield Power Relay II
Power Diagnostic System II
Power Diagnostic System II

Large Shield Extender II
Large Shield Extender II
Large Shield Extender II
Invulnerability Field II

Focused Modal Medium Laser I, Multifrequency M
Focused Modal Medium Laser I, Multifrequency M
Focused Modal Medium Laser I, Multifrequency M
Focused Modal Medium Laser I, Multifrequency M
Focused Modal Medium Laser I, Multifrequency M
Focused Modal Medium Laser I, Multifrequency M
Small Remote Armor Repair System I
Core Probe Launcher I, Core Scanner Probe I

Medium Core Defence Field Purger I
Medium Core Defence Field Purger I
Medium Core Defence Field Purger I

Hammerhead II x5

I tried my best to come up with a Harby armor fit that actually worked, but there’s just no way to do it and keep your guns firing for more than about 3 minutes, even assuming PERFECT Amarr piloting skills. That’s not enough.

Y U No Battleships?

These guidelines are built under the assumption that you’re (a) a fairly new pilot and (b) in a class 2 or class 1 wormhole. Battleships require more training, yes, (especially if you want to fly more than one race’s ships) but more importantly if you put Battleship sized guns on your Battleship (as you should) you won’t be able to hit most of the sleeper ships that are commonly found in a smaller wormhole — they’re too fast, and too small for those big guns to track.

Listen, I’m a drone-control freak and I don’t care who knows it. Just give me something I can fly.

… Fine.

[Dominix, What I dont’ Even…]
Shield Power Relay II
Shield Power Relay II
Shield Power Relay II
Shield Power Relay II
Shield Power Relay II
Power Diagnostic System II
Power Diagnostic System II

Large Shield Extender II
Large Shield Extender II
Large Shield Extender II
Invulnerability Field II
Invulnerability Field II

650mm Artillery Cannon I, EMP M
650mm Artillery Cannon I, EMP M
650mm Artillery Cannon I, EMP M
650mm Artillery Cannon I, EMP M
650mm Artillery Cannon I, EMP M
Drone Link Augmentor I

Large Core Defence Field Purger I
Large Core Defence Field Purger I
Large Core Defence Field Purger I

Ogre II x5
Hammerhead II x5
Bouncer II x5
Warrior II x5

Yeah… that’s a shield-tanked Dominix, mounting cruiser-scale minmatar artillery cannons because they don’t use up the capacitor and they can actually hit what you’re shooting at. It’s wrong on so many levels it makes me hang my head in shame.

But it works.

Now let’s never speak of it again.

In Conclusion…

If you’re looking at these fittings and thinking “I can’t fly that”, then you need to train up until you can. Yes, seriously. If you have some extra isk, you can cut some corners by buying more expensive named modules on the market — lower requirements with the same output — but ultimately, you need to get the skills; in the long run, there’s no substitute. This is what you need to survive Sleepers in a Wormhole.

Surviving the other players is a whole different problem.

What to play, what to play…

De’s providing all my material lately.

This weekend, she writes me and says: get to start GMing here shortly. What indie RPG should I take a look at, that we haven’t played? High story, low/medium number crunching, run it for about six sessions before we decide whether to keep going/try something else.

So De’s played Burning Wheel with me, which is certainly on the high end of number crunch. Also In a Wicked Age, though not Dogs. The Shab al-Hiri Roach. The Mountain Witch. Spirit of the Century. Stuff like that. Assume she’ll be playing with Lee, who tends to like stuff that’s a little more trad in how it expresses characters, cuz he’s old school awesome.

The problem: I have a 7 month old, so I basically haven’t played anything but Pilgrims of the Flying Temple and Castle Ravenloft in the last (feels like a) year. Therefore, I can’t knowledgeably recommend stuff like Apocalypse World or Dungeon World or whatever the current hotness of trad-like indie gaming is. I believe them to be awesome, but I don’t know for sure.

What I do know, however are the things I put on my “OMG I Wanna Play This” list before Sean was born. So I grabbed the ones on there that looked like they’d meet her criteria, and when it was all done it looked halfway useful for more than just her, so:

Some Cool Games to Play

De didn’t specify genre, so this list is all over the place. Only thing you’re not seeing on here is Fantasy, because for that I like Burning Wheel too much, and it doesn’t meet her criteria. Still: Burning Wheel Gold.
  • Suspense/Horror – Dread:  It’s good. It works for what it wants to do. Also gives you an excuse to buy Jenga.
  • Shooting Aliens and the Human Condition – 3:16 – Carnage Amongst the Stars  – Space Marines kill aliens, get shafted by the Government, and eventually (over the course of the campaign) flip out or rebel against The Man or something. Super-simple mechanics. The damage die determines how many aliens you kill, not the damage you do. We played this once on a pick-up game night last year, and my only complaint was that we didn’t play it more – I wanted to see who was going to gank who, and who was going to try to fly home and take revenge on COMMAND.
  • MI5 + sitcom vs. Cthulu – The Laundry: Based on the book series. Yes, that one, Dave.  Very fun, very functional game that a lot of folks are saying nice, happy things about. See also Gareth’s brilliant supplement, Black Bag Jobs.
  • Leverage, the RPG: In another era, this would be called Cons & Capers. Good system, much-loved by the gamerati, somewhat restricted by the necessities of the genre, and could probably be hacked into a fun espionage serial missions game with little effort.
  • Smallville RPG: I know what you’re thinking, but by all accounts (and I do mean all) this game is probably one of the best that came out last year. It’s good, it’s easy, it’s written by damn smart people, and it kicks out good stories. Also fairly easily reskinned for other genres, like Buffy or what have you.
There are a few more, like Fiasco, that I really want to try. I’m reading that one right now, so more on that later.
Anyone out there have good suggestions of new hotness to check out? How’s Apocalypse World?

Life in a Wormhole: Don’t Shoot the Good Guys #eveonline

The formidable weaponry of our fully armed and operational battle station has been brought to bear on a hapless intruder into our system! The pilot warped close to the moon our tower orbits, decloaked within the (formidable) range of our guns, and got their ship popped. The fool! They will know better the next time they —

Wait, what? It was one of our own guys?


Specifically, it was Bre, who actually isn’t part of our corporation, just a friend. In fact, she’s supposed to be marked as a trusted friend of the corporation, and we thought the tower guns understood that, but when we think about it, we realize that she’s been flying a cloaked covert ops ship almost a hundred percent of the time, and has never actually been visible to the guns at any point, except when she was safely inside the tower shields.

Until now.


The reason Bre was decloaked outside the tower was to set up a pair of ‘mailboxes’ outside our tower and the tower of ze Germans — password-locked containers, floating in space, where our two corporations can leave each other bookmarks to all the cosmic locations we scan down — just one more way we can establish a good relationship with our neighbors.

(I don’t think I put this much effort into getting to know the people I actually live next to.)

Bre was handling this part of the project simply because she’s the best scanner we have and she can fly around the system without fear of enemy ambush (friendly ambush is another story).

I’m annoyed that we still haven’t gotten the security on the tower set up correctly, and the Germans sympathize, because they still haven’t figured out how to get their tower to stop shooting at us either, which seems to embarrass them more than a little.

In fact, they seem to feel particularly bad about the fact that Bre’s ship was destroyed while she was distributing bookmarks for their corp as well as ours, and three of their leaders each send her a sizable bit of isk to compensate her for the loss — more than enough to replace and refit her covert-ops frigate. This makes quite a good impression on us — words are nice, but actions speak considerably louder, and in EVE, actions involving money speak loudest of all.

The Germans send their condolences.

The tengus slumming in our system the night before seem to have cleared out all the local sleeper sites, but luckily we have a persistent connection to class 1 wormhole space. Some exploration reveals that there are dozens of small pockets of the semi-dormant homocidal drone ships in that small abandoned system, so I start cracking them open and pulling out their candy-like ancient technologies while Bre builds herself a shiny new Buzzard cov-ops ship.

I’m going after the Sleepers solo, because Gor is out for the day and CB is still back in Empire space after his encounter with roaming bombers the night before, but my Myrmidon battlecruiser takes longer to reach the ships than blow them up. I bookmark a wreck in each site, leaving them in my wake as I go, so that the cleared sites despawn and drop off of the system scanner. The wrecks will remain for several hours, but there won’t be an easy way for … let’s say … a pair of stealth bombers to locate and drop in on me when I come back in my salvager ship.

CB is online, however, and we chat on voice while I slap the evil drones around. He’s still analyzing the ambush, and bemoaning the loss of so much ore. Our lessons learned from the event are two-fold; CB decides he need to adopt a ‘save early, safe often’ mindset, and ‘waste’ some time flying the ore back to the safety of the tower more often than he’s used to doing in high security space. For my part, I think it’s fairly likely the fragile bombers would have left CB alone if he’d had a pointier ship nearby — rather than running around doing errands, we might have saved ourselves a ship loss if I’d played bodygaurd the night before; you’ll always be safer with a friend than flying solo.

In fact… it occurs to me that I’m solo right now, and flying a fragile salvager ship. Hmm.

I hurry the last of the post-combat cleanup and skitter on back to the tower. There’s plenty of time left in the evening, but I think I can wait to share the profit (and risk) with another pilot.

EVE Online: Missions, Agents, and earning Faction Love

The most striking thing about EVE Online is the way in which the game is not like its digital brethren. Unique can be a good thing: when you’re sick to death of the same-old-same-old, something that works completely differently can be a real breath of fresh air. It can also be a bad thing: sometimes, the reason that everyone solves a design problem the same way is simply because it’s actually the best way to solve the problem. “Unique” is a risky balancing act — when you get it right, it can set you far above your competition — get it wrong and you’ve set yourself up for mockery and painful failure.

Say what you will about EVE, it’s definitely not a game that’s ever been afraid of being different from everyone else. Sometimes that works out well, and sometimes it makes players want to kick innocent puppies to relieve their frustration. Today, in the /diff files, I’m going to take a look at EVE’s version of the MMO-ubiquitous “quest” mechanic: Missions — and see which end of the spectrum they end up on.

Continue reading “EVE Online: Missions, Agents, and earning Faction Love”

A long time coming.

Back in 2006, I wrote this short post:

You know what I’d like to do?

I’d like to make up a really rough sketch background against which to play a Lexicon Game. Like: “The Wose War and Scandal of Eddings Barony”, “The Atomic Apotheosis”, or “The Parliamentary Assassinations of 2128″.

Get a group of people together and just… you know. Go to town. Play the game.

Then, when it’s all laid out, set a game in the setting everyone just created.

I think that would be fun.

Nothing came of that post, at least not immediately.

Then, in October of 2008, I had the PHENOMENALLY FOOLISH idea to play exactly that sort of lexicon game from start to finish from October 15th to October 31st, just in time to get everyone’s creative juices primed for NaNoWriMo that year.

Here were the guidelines we used:

  • Basically Fantasy – more low fantasy and sword and sorcery in tone – with other fun bits bolted on. “A fantasy RPG, as GMd by John Cleese.”
  • No specific rules of magic at a macro level, with many insular rules of magic at the micro level.
  • Lots of different races.
  • Anything that might qualify as science-fiction or the like should be of a clockwork/steampunk/Jules Verne bent; this would include any theories about how the world exists in the solar system, the universe, and everything.
  • Other dimensions for weird crap to come from or leak out of.
  • A long and storied history.
  • Puns.
  • At least slightly humorous, in the style of Pratchett/Discworld, keeping in mind that most of the humor of the books comes from wry, pun-loving voice of the NARRATOR and snarky comments by the main characters… not because the entire population is half-knowingly running a Monty Python sketch.

I don’t remember everyone I snagged to participate in the thing, but there were probably at least eight that made it through to the end.

And… unbelievably, it worked. I even set my story for NaNoWriMo in that setting.

But I never ran a game there. Bodea-Lotnikk, the Charnel Road, the Jugular Way, and the Grand Duchy of Kroon have never been the stomping grounds for a group of my players.

That’s all about to change.

I wasn’t sure if we’d meet this week, but last night a couple folks got together and worked out what we’d like to do for a proper Burning Wheel campaign. Close to a dozen possibilities were proposed by yours truly, and as a footnote to one of those ideas, I’d added “we could even set the whole thing in Bodea-Lotnikk”.

Bodea-Lotnikk is the most populous urban area in Grand Duchy Of Kroon, comprised of no less than 86 distinct boroughs, assimilated townships, long-vanished villages, and subsumed hunting grounds. It boasts narrow streets laid out irregularly, clannish neighborhoods, and a vast collection of architecture marking the dying moments of any number of design eras best forgotten.

Oh my, but they liked that idea.

That provided a setting (and WHAT a setting), but it didn’t address the situation. I flipped to page 90 of the Adventure Burner and read this question:

What’s the Big Picture? What’s going on in this setting the makes it ripe for adventure? What’s changing?

What we decided on was this: the Grand Duke, as part of his continual effort to exercise some manner of order over the city, had established a City Guard, meant to investigate any ‘cross-borough’ crimes and enforce the laws of the city.

All of em.

For all 86 boroughs.


Complications will include stuff like contradictory laws between boroughs, hopelessly labyrinthine legal messes, questions of jurisdiction, and local law enforcement in each borough that just plain didn’t like the City Guard sticking their noses where they weren’t wanted.

The first session will (of course) open with a very public murder that will threaten the stability of the whole city.

We didn’t entirely finish characters, but we know that Kate’s playing a exiled dwarven noble by the name of Mika Harildsdottir, Tim’s playing an elven legal expert who’s positively thrilled to be out of the elvish Citadels and doing things with real people, and I think Chris is doing some kind of human criminal-turned-courtier. The Grand Duke’s decided they’re the ‘face’ of the City Guard, since they’re so multicultural and… *distracted hand wave* you know… things like that.

One of the other upsides to this concept is that it’s going to be dead simple to bring in other players on either a short- or long-term basis.

Another upside? It should be awesome.

I believe I’m going to call the campaign Burning Molerats.

2009: The Year In Gaming

Well, the year in *my* gaming, anyway.

Last year, during the holidays, Tim (I’m pretty sure it was Tim) suggested that we set up a regular gaming schedule for:

  • A small group.
  • On weeknights.

This coincided well with my long-time desire to get a regularly scheduled game night going again. The small group also meant that we wouldn’t have (as many) problems with not being able to play because some significant percentage of the group couldn’t make it.

By and large, it worked. Since January 14th of last year, this is (to the best of my recollection) what I’ve played:

  • Don’t Rest Your Head – We did this as a one-shot with Tim and Chris and Kate, and while I think it would have been better with two sessions, it worked as a single session thanks to the players really pushing the story hard, and it was quite fun. I daresay it was perhaps the first really successful game I’ve run with Kate as a player. I remember this one fondly. That it was the first game of the ‘new’ schedule augured well for the future.
  • Dogs in the Vineyard – a kind-of wrap up for an on-again, off-again story we’d played in 2008.
  • Inspectres, thanks to a request from Bianca.
  • In a Wicked Age – we revisited this system a couple times during the year, and Tim and Chris as a sort of desert-rat Laurel and Hardy rarely fails to entertain. I’d like to take this game out for another spin in the future, if only to see how The Wedding comes out. (Where did I put that Oracle?…)
  • The Mountain Witch – this actually wasn’t a Wednesday Night game, but a weekend one-shot I ran for Kate, De, Lee, and their visiting brother Dale. The ending was something like: De killed Lee, Kate killed De, the Witch killed Kate, and Dale (saved the child and) killed himself. Glorious, bloody fun, hampered only by my misunderstanding of one ability Lee wrote down.
  • Shadows Over Camelot – Not an RPG as such, but it gave us a number of good games, and not just with my gamer friends: our first win came while playing with Kate’s mom, and I personally had a fantastic time playing with my own mom and dad. Dad really got into the game.
  • Primetime Adventure: Ironwall – A real milestone for me: we pitched a series and, from March to November, managed to run all six sessions in the first Season. That may not seem like much of an accomplishment, but when you consider we were coordinating the schedules of five adults, and had to postpone several times when the ‘spotlight’ player couldn’t show, I will happily dislocate my shoulder while patting my own back.  It’s worth noting that we all want to revisit this setting and the storyline in the future… but with a different system — very likely the Dresden Files, which will have just the mix we’re looking for. PTA is great for high-concept, but a little light on ground-level mechanics.

While we were ostensibly playing PTA, we squeezed in a couple other games as well.

  • Mouse Guard, more Mouse Guard, and yet more Mouse Guard. I love this game, pure and simple. I love it enough to try Burning Wheel.
  • 3:16 – A one-shot story of genocidal space marines. Good times. Would not mind going back to this game again at all.
  • Danger Patrol – I enjoyed this session so much. I’d LOVE to play a short series of serials in this madcap, space opera, radio drama universe.

Give or take, that’s about 19 games over the course of the year. Call it 23 if you count Shadows over Camelot. Not quite two games every month, but damn close; I’ll take it and say thankee sai.

What I’d love to play in the coming year:

Longer stuff

  • Burning Wheel or Burning Empires (probably Burning Wheel: I suspect that Diaspora might give me my spacey-sci-fi fix for 2010.)
  • Diaspora – an excellent game built on the Fate 3.0 engine. I’ve had time to go over the rules now, and the social combat sub-system makes me shivery, to say nothing about ship to ship combat. Fun stuff. God I love Aspects.

Shorter Stuff

  • Time & Temp – A game of time travel and underemployment. You travel through the ages actualizing solutions for the anomalies and paradoxes that threaten all of existence. You are reality’s only line of defense in the war between the rigidity of causality and freewill. Your reward: the hard earned satisfaction of a job well done. (Plus $11.50 an hour and a modest health package including comprehensive immunizations for history’s most prolific diseases.)
  • Annalise is a game about making Vampire stories. Each player characters are the victims, hunters and tools of the Vampire. The best example is that you are playing the story of Dracula with one person (for example) in the role of Mina Harker, one as Van Helsing, one as Renfield. The Vampire in your game, like Dracula, is what drives the plot, but it is not a protagonist.
  • Some more In a Wicked Age.
  • Some more Mouse Guard.
  • A little Ghost Echo, if I’m feeling cyberpunky.

What about playing? Hmm.

  • I think I should hook Chris up with a copy of Trail of Cthulu and see if he wants to run it. I’ve heard good things.
  • Fiasco, which doesn’t need a GM.
  • Ooh, someone run some Shotgun Diaries, please.

And whatever other shiny bit of metal gets my attention.

What about you?

A Penny for My Thoughts

I love stories about amnesia. I just… I love ’em.

Tim has been talking about Paul Tevis’ A Penny for My Thoughts.  The game is out now, and that link connects to Paul talking about the game a little bit on his podcast.  I will allow him one episode of self-promotion, because the game sounds really cool.

It’s definitely on my “to buy and play” list.

Maybe even online via Twitter. 🙂

Our first Mouse Guard session: “Not much use as a postmouse” and “A New Route to Ivydale”

Wow, I kind of screwed some things up in the first session, but we had a lot of fun anyway. What follows is the tale of one play session that, by the suggested structure of play in the rules, was really two ‘missions’ worth of stuff (two cycles of “GM’s Turn, Player’s Turn”). I didn’t realize that until I’d gotten into the session quite a ways, however, so I somewhat incorrectly overcompensated during the final Player Turn with an extra skill check for everyone, but ahh well -we had a good time.

So, for those of you who played, forgive me for retroactively breaking it down into GM Turn One and so forth, because we didn’t know that during the game, but it helps me remember the structure of play, and we’ve already discussed in email how I screwed it up, so you know I know. 🙂

Right! Now, the events as they took place.

Lockhaven, Spring, 1152

We started off in Lockhaven with the rain coming down and mice scuttling from building to building (mostly) trying to stay out of the mud and puddles. Lucia bumps into the cartographer that she apprenticed with when she first came to Lockhaven in 1148. The two chat quickly (it is raining, after all), and Marielle – hearing that Lucia would soon be sent out on Patrol – encourages her stay dry, warm, and draw lots of maps.

Lucia promises to do so and heads off the main Keep for the briefing with Gwendolyn.

When she arrives, Rosamund (Roz) is already there. Aelwyn stomps in a few moments later, a smile on his face and mud on his feet — not everymouse tries to avoid puddles, it seems.

Captain Rand greets them as he exits the keep, letting them know that Gwendolyn will see them now… and to wipe their feet.

Gwendolyn has them sit down and lets them know that they will be sent farther afield than she’d like, considering they have no official patrol leader, but the Guard is stretched thin this year, and needs must…

Their whole assignment in brief, is to travel to Dorigift in the south, delivering mail to Shaleburrow, Ivydale, Elmoss, and Sprucetuck as they go (this alone is a trip of more than a week. In addition…

  • The guard will be escorting a young mouse, Orina, and her new son Hale to their home (and husband) in Ivydale. Orina had to put up in Lockhaven in the late fall to give birth, but her husband traveled on to Ivydale out of necessity, and Gwendolyn promised the young mother that the Guard would see her home.
  • Gwendolyn also wants the patrol to scout a direct route from Shaleburrow to Ivydale (there used to be one, but it was somehow lost during the war in 1149).
  • The patrol should acquire barrels of False Scent from the scientists of Sprucetuck and take them to Dorigift.
  • Once the mail is delivered in Dorigift, the patrol will set out west, locate the Scent Border of the Territories, and repair the border with the barrels of False Scent. (A standard springtime necessity for the guard.)
Note: Obviously, this is WAY more than one mission’s worth of stuff to do… Gwendolyn is laying out a whole season’s assignment, knowing that the group won’t be back for some time. The Guard is spread thin, after all, and needs must…

Once the guard finished up with the Scent Border, they are to return to Lockhaven by way of Copperwood. Gwendolyn dictates this route specifically so that she can intercept the patrol with new orders, if necessary, without wasting their time on a needless trip back all the way back — the Guard lives on the paths of the Territories, not Lockhaven, after all.

Mission One: Deliver the Mail to Shaleburrow and Ivydale, with Orina and baby Hale in tow. Blaze a viable trail from Shaleburrow to Ivydale as you go.

With the mission handed out, each character each picks a personal goal for this mission:

  • Lucia – I will map a new path from Shaleburrow to Ivydale.
  • Aelwyn – I will protect the mother and child and get them safe to Ivydale.
  • Roz – I will make sure the mail is delivered safely to Shaleburrow and Ivydale.

After the briefing, I mentioned that it’s possible it would be raining for the whole trip to Shaleburrow and Ivydale – hard weather for a newborn cub to travel in – and asked if anyone wanted to do anything about that, so we had a Weather Watcher test.

Obstacle 1: Weather-watching vs. Spring to see if the weather would clear before when the mice set off. (Failure would probably have resulted in a weather-based twist for the patrol, or the weather getting worse, but it didn’t come up, because the mice won. Even though Roz’s independent nature (trait) made the whole thing more difficult (+2 dice for her opponent – the weather) by eschewing consultation of the local Lockhaven weather watchers, she managed (with Lucia’s scientific knowledge – and her new, improved, fir cone barometer device), to determine that the weather would be… clear and warm!

On the way to Shaleburrow, Roz and Aelwyn spotted a few early shoots coming out of the snow alongside the path, and got to talking about whether or not any of them would be of any medicinal value. Lucia heard this and offered her scientific opinion, and before long, the three of them had slowed their patrol to crawl as they each took turns wandering off the path to look for various herbs and plants. The upshot of this was that the foraging mice, while successful, were already Tired and Hungry when they got to Shaleburrow, which was supposed to be easy part of the trip.

Tired mouse is still tired.
Tired mouse is tired.

Although she didn’t say much about it, the delay in the trip left Orina antsy and annoyed. Lucia is tired; Aelwyn and Roz are both hungry and thirsty.

Obstacle 2: Harvesting along the route to Spucetuck, looking for healer supplies. This was a failure success-with-consequences, resulting in mice that were either Tired (Aelwyn, as the ‘lead mouse’ for the conflict) or Hungry/Thirsty (the two ‘helping’ mice). Only later did it occur to me that I could/should instead have made succes-with-a-Twist in which one of the foragers ran into a spring-waking Bullfrog, but I didn’t. C’est la game.

Late into the evening, the patrol arrived in Shaleburrow: (Effectively, the first Player Turn.)

  • Roz’s Check: Circles Test (Ob3) to find the local postman and work with him on mail delivery. This check failed with the “Enmity Clause” twist: the postmouse of Shaleburrow (Edgar) pretty much thought that Roz’s work was the worst he’d ever seen in 20 years – that she not much use as a postmouse — some kind of punishment from Lockhaven. Roz left his office just short of tears, but trying to remember everything he’d berated her about doing wrong, so she could improve in the future.
  • Aelwyn finds the group a place to stay – lodging that would alleviate Hungry and Tired conditions from people. This was a Resource test, augmented with Aelwyn’s Bard-wise: a good inn (with good entertainment) was found.
  • Lucia: A Circle’s Test (Ob3) to find someone in the inn familiar with the old, now-lost route from Shaleburrow to Ivydale. This was a Success: a veteran of the war (William) was found who described the old route and gave Margie a +1D “gear” bonus on the Pathfinder roll for the next day. He also shared that the old route had benefited from a bridge over a fairly daunting stream. During a retreat in the Weasel War, that bridge had been destroyed — in William’s opinion, it would be finding a reliable way across that stream that would make or break the success of forging a new path.


Next day… off to Ivydale (2nd GM turn)

Lucia is trying to find a path (and it’s still good weather, yay). (This is a Pathfinder Test, Ob 6.) Roz tries helps her with Weather Watcher, Aelwyn tries to help with Scout – but neither of them help, nor did any of William’s advice. This test failed succeeded-with-a-Twist (which we’ll get to in a bit).

Without use, the old path has faded to virtually nothing. Lucia is sussing out a path (with the chatty Aelwyn assign trailblazing duty far in the rear and away from Lucia), but it’s slow, slow going. Orina is in better spirits, and baby Hale is great. Aelwyn apologizes for the hard travel, but Orina expresses her gratitude: the fact is, that this is what the Guard does, and it’s work like this that keeps the Territories connected — she knows that, just as she knows that if she didn’t have the Guard mice to travel with, she’d still be in Lockhaven, and no closer to her husband. Aelwyn notes that this is just the sort of bold thing that the Guard does.

Evening falls, Lucia feels they’re getting close to where her maps indicate the stream will be, and she doesn’t want reach it at dark, so she calls for a camp.

Camp is made, and Hale is getting fussy – it’s been a long day for him. Aelwyn is regaling Orina and baby Hale with some tale of heroism… and then suddenly stops talking (unusual in itself).

“Did you hear something?”

It’s quiet … it’s … a squirrel! Flying squirrel! A flying devil! No! They eat baby mice!

TWIST: THE ANIMAL -Lured in by the whimpering of Baby Hale, the flying squirrel wants to abduct his next meal.

The squirrel’s goal in this conflict is to grab the baby mouse and get away. The patrol’s goal is to protect Hale and drive the squirrel away. Disposition of 7 (mice) vs 8 (squirrel). Aelwyn is leading the fight, since his goal is to protect them.

We scripted up our actions, and in the end it worked out with the mice scripting Defend/Feint/Attack, and the squirrel scripting Feint/Maneuver/Attack.

This combination meant that the Defend by Lucia was completely foxed by the squirrel’s Feint, then Aelwyn’s bow-based feint against the squirrel’s Maneuver was quite effective (though the flight-based maneuvering was also), and the Attack vs. Attack was a dangerous final move for both.

Lucia tries to defend by grabbing Orina and Hale and moving for cover, but she misreads where the squirrel was going to be and the three of them move to, basically,the worst place possible (squirrel hits the group’s disposition for 6, leaving them 1).

Aelwyn tries to Feint and the squirrel, who was swooping around (maneuver) for a dive at the baby mouse suddenly maenuvers right into into a hail of arrows that was meant merely to drive it off and instead peppers it with painful, stinging shots. Pow! Six successes taken from the squirrel’s 8 disposition (lots of help from Roz and Lucia). Aelwyn uses his lone Fate point to reroll his sixes and gets one more success… the squirrel Disposition is now 1… Aelwyn taps Nature with his lone Persona point… rolls 3 dice… but doesn’t get ONE success on 3 dice. In the meantime, the Squirrel gets 4 successes with his maneuver, and “disarms” bows from the mice for the rest of the Conflict — he’s about to get in WAY to close to use bows.

Attack v Attack (or “this is gonna hurt”): With both sides down to 1 disposition, it was looking like a pretty ugly “both sides win” conclusion to this fight, and that’s pretty much what happened.

With both sides reduced to zero in the same action, everyone gets their stated goals; the squirrel is driven off, but he’s got Hale (who is uninjured).

In the final exchange, Roz got a heavy cut in on the squirrel as he flew past, so he’s leaving a blood trail and is Injured. Aelwyn basically threw himself in the Squirrel’s path as it came flying in in a last-ditch effort to keep him away from from Hale — he gets knocked flat, and his shoulder is dislocated (Injured). Both Lucia and Roz are Angry (condition).

This is what Angry looks like.
This is what Angry looks like.
  • FOLLOWUP CONFLICT: THE CHASE – The squirrel had Hale, and the mice set off in hot pursuit!It is POSSIBLE that this second conflict should have counted as – sort of – my second Obstacle for the GM’s turn, and that once it was done, I “should” have just handwaved away the planned Obstacle of the swollen river, since I’m only supposed to have two main Obstacles per GM turn. I can see arguments for it either way. In any case, that isn’t what we did — so we ended up with an extra-long Obstacle + Twist + chase scene series, and everyone got especially beat up this GM Turn.

Aelwyn is too weak from his injury, so Lucia takes the lead on this conflict, rolling beginner’s luck Scout for the group’s disposition. She also uses her Clever trait, and taps (and taxes) her Nature and ends up with a Disposition of 8 vs the injured Squirrel’s 7.

Also, I tell them that Orina will be using her Scout skill (she’s a harvester mouse) to give a helping die with each roll, and she is also a special piece of ‘gear’ for this conflict – she can be ‘tapped’ once during the conflict to provide an additional bonus die. (Like a sword works in fights.)

In this conflict, I got…



I’ve heard people talk about this on the BW boards, but I’d never really seen it in action, and man… ouch.

For the squirrel, I scripted an Attack (which, in a chase, translates to “no finesse running”, followed by a Defend (hide from pursuit), and finally doubling back and away from the patrol (feint).

In the first exchange, Roz did a Maneuver, climbing a tree directly in the wounded squirrel’s path. The result was a tie, but Roz tapped her Nature and got a few more successes, which she turned into bonus dice for the next action.

In the second exchange, I’d planned to ‘defend’ by hiding, but the mice were Feinting — the squirrel hid from the noisy, shouting mice, but that was JUST what they wanted – Lucia was moving in quietly from the side. Unfortunately, although she had the advantage, she couldn’t quite capitalize on it: Lucia rolled 9 dice … but got only 2 successes.

In the final exchange, the squirrel tried to fake the patrol out with a feinted double back, but Aelwyn – running full out this whole time, scrambling up a tree, and LEAPING ONTO THE SQUIRREL – was having none of it. It was mouse-attack vs. squirrel feint, and Aelwyn took the squirrel’s disposition down below zero… with the mice taking not one point of Disposition ‘damage’.

This, but jumping from a tree, with no spear.
This, but with a tree and no spear.

Hale is safe! The squirrel is driven from the area, never to return (leaving the nascent new path free from at least one predator). Yay!


The patrol, beaten and bruised, comes to the stream, swollen with spring run-off.

OBSTACLE: Swollen River – Either a Boatcrafting Ob4 test, or a Survivalist Ob6 test to rig something up… followed by a Health check to power the boat across the river.
Aelwyn’s shoulder makes it almost impossible for him to work an adze and put together any kind of boat big enough to hold two mice at once, so Roz takes a shot at it (beginner’s luck rules) . (Health-based). Aelwyn gives suggestions, Lucia gives scientific advice. RESULT: “Success with Consequences” It takes… all… day… and Roz is very Tired.
We gonna need a bigger boat.
We're gonna need a bigger boat.

Once the boat is done, Lucia takes it across, with tips from Roz. Lucia pushes forward, doing well… but the current is stronger than expected and takes her further down stream, past the low spot on the far bank she was aiming for.

TWIST: Scattered downstream – The mice were scattered along the stream for quite some distance. Finding everyone is a Scout vs. Nature (6) test – lowered to 5 dice because weather watcher stopped the rain earlier.

Aelwyn leads the hunt to find where Lucia made it ashore. Everyone finds each other, and luckily Lucia is on the far shore… with rope! There is roping, tying, swearing, heavy labor to ferry the boat back and forth and get everyone across (Roz and Lucia gets hungry, and Aelwyn is tired), but everyone gets across!

And, fortunately, it’s relatively easy on the other side. Also, the spot where Lucia came to ground wasn’t a bad place to ferry mice across, or even maybe to build a bridge…

The patrol arrives in Ivydale through the tall grass, snow melt, and mud… there is a tearful reunion between Orina and Freel, her hubby, and the mice stagger off to bed and a hot meal at Aelwyn’s parent’s home.

Tired mouse is still tired.
Tired mouse is still tired.

We wrapped the session up with a properly-done Player’s Turn.

The Player’s turn was as follows, though maybe not in this PRECISE order:

  • Ros takes a long walk and successfully tests her Will to get rid of Angry.
  • Lucia uses Cartography to make a simple map of the new Shaleburrow/Ivydale route. Success.
  • Aelwyn calls on his Family for food and board (no roll required) — this will help all of them get rid of their Hungry and/or Tired conditions. He also makes a Resources roll (boosted by being in his home town) to buy the supplies needed to give Roz a bonus to her Healer roll to make an Injury-healing poultice). Success.
  • Ros makes said poultice. (Success)
  • Lucia uses Ros’s poultice to Heal on Aelwyn’s Injury. Success. (The fact that Aelwyn used his Brewer (drinking beer!) to help Lucia… did not actually help.)
  • Aelwyn does a Circles test to locate the local postmouse, since Roz had been busy making stuff to heal him. (Success).
  • Roz, working with Aelwyn (who has Scouting), does a Beginner’s Luck test of Scouting — she is a very citified mouse, and while her skills are useful some of the time, she’s feeling her lack out in the Territories.
  • Ros then advised Lucia to take a long walk – it had helped her Anger, so maybe it would help Lucia. (Player of Roz gave Lucia her last check so that Lucia can try to get rid of Angry.)
  • Lucia makes a Will test to get rid of Angry. Failure. Lucia stomps back in from her walk, covered in mud and straw, and growls “it didn’t work.”

That was it!

Aelwyn was voted MVP for the session for the out-of-the-tree-jumping, Roz got Workhorse, and Lucia got Embodiment. Everyone earned 3 Fate and 2 Persona.

My Observation: the first session of Mouse Guard is hard on players — they don’t quite know all the rules yet, or how (and why) to generate Checks from their Traits, AND they only have 1 Fate and 1 Persona to throw at conflicts. If I had it to do over, I might start new players with 2 Fate and 2 Persona for the very first session. I predict the second session (with more Fate and Persona to go around, and a better rules understanding), will be much smoother.

Still, we all had a good time, and are still talking about and pondering the session days later, so I’m going to call it a win.

Also, I TOTALLY don’t feel bad about the session going about 5 hours. Given that a GM Turn + Player turn is “supposed” to run about 2 to 3 hours… and the fact that we played TWO (though we didn’t realize it at the time), the whole thing took pretty much exactly as long as should have been expected. Woot. Go us.

[[Recovery Note: Whoever narrates the Prologue at the beginning of the next session gets to remove one Condition before play begins. (Each MG comic starts with a Prologue, so it’s hardcoded into the Game System.) This means that, if Margie does the prologue next session, Lucia can lose her Angry condition. Woot!]]

More Mouse Guard, part 2

Right, so… where was I?

We had most the skills and wises nailed down for the characters, and we knew what skill each character’s mentor had emphasized in their training, so once again I went back to an idea from that article on teaching Mouse Guard through character generation and decided to show everyone how Independent tests worked.

6. The first test. I introduced the basics of the game system to everyone by doing an Independent test with each player. Based on the mentor they described and the focus each mentor took in their training, I would come up with a Ob 4 test (pretty difficult within the system) that they needed to face with a single Independent test. Getting a bonus to the roll from one of the player’s Wises are okay, plus the player to that player’s right could also describes how they help with the roll, and gives one helping die to the player.

Once that was done, they got to check either a success or failure for that skill, and we proceeded on to the next thing.

The thing was, due to the nature of the tests, this turned into a bit of a challenge.


I started with Kate, playing Rosamund, and asked for a reminder about what her Mentor had emphasized in her training.

“Fighter”, she replied.

“Fighter? I thought that was your natural talent.”

“That too.” She looked at her sheet. “It’s also my specialty.” She looked at me. “What?”

“Nothing.” I tried to figure out how to frame a scene involving a Fight test that was logically an Independent Test (rather than a versus test, which was the next thing I was going to do) and… yeah.  Also, in such a way that Dave could help her in  some way.

“Okay, so…” I looked at the map of the Territories. “You’re in Pebblebrook. Your patrol is.  Your mentor has been on you about how all your fancy moves and dueling rules are fine, but don’t carry much weight when you’re out in the wild.  To drive the point home, he… umm…”  I glance at Dave.  “He sends you out to recon a farm where the Pebblebrook mice have reported… well, they’re not sure — some say a big animal, some say weasel raiders.  Dave, your patrol’s out in this area too, because this has turned into kind of a big mess, and your leader sends you along with Kate — Rosamund.”


“And Aelwyn is scouting and doing his thing, and Rosamund, you’re like… poking around the outbuildings, a big granary… and you come around the building and come up face to face with a bobcat.”

They both blink. “Holy Crap.”

“Yeah… so…” I struggle to frame this up. “The thing is way too big to seriously threaten — you’d need a couple dozen guards to have a chance at this thing, maybe more — so you just need to get away.  Luckily, this thing can’t seem to decide if you’re food or a toy or something to ignore, so you’re not rolling against it, and not having to beat its full Nature.  You’re sword’s out and you’re just trying to hold it off and get it away.”

So we tally up dice, and Kate has some kind of sick number of dice — her Fighting is a 6, for pete’s sake, which is as high as it can go in the game — and Dave gives her a hand using his Predator-wise by shouting “poke it in the nose, it should back off!”  Kate wins the challenge handily and the two mice beat paws back to their respective patrols to report that yes… there APPEARS to be something amiss in Pebblebrook.


Next up is Aelwyn, and I ask Dave what his mentor’s training focus had been on, and he tells me it’s Scout.  Okay. That’s a bit easier, although it’s supposed to always be a versus test, but whatever. So is Fighter as far as I can imagine. C’est la gaming.

“So… same basic thing, Dave,” I say. “You’re in Pebblebrook, still, and it’s a bit later in this mission we’re flashing back to, and you’ve been sent out to scout around and see if you can find the lair of the bobcat or any weasels, because some people swear they’ve seen weasels around.  It’s weird, and it’s raising a panic in the western territories, which is why, Margie, you’re Patrol is out there too.  You two tenderfeet have been paired up on this scouting thing while your leaders confer.  This is going to be and Obstacle 4 Scouting test, and Margie…”

“… can help with Pathfinder.”

“Perfect. You’re pointing out on your map which roads and paths in the area are probably too well-traveled to use, and Aelwyn’s weaving through the countryside, looking anything weird, and… roll.”

Dave does, but he only comes up with three winning dice, and he needs four.

“So, you’re up on a bank, like a low rise that drops off sharply into this hollow, where there’s a small fire and a handful of weasels around it.  They’re talking about how they need more meat to lure the bobcat and keep the thing in area and scaring the locals so they don’t notice the weasels and whatever they’re doing.  Right about then, the bank gives way and you tumble down in amongst them.  There’s a lot of mud and rocks falling too, so you’re not immediately screwed, but you have to scramble and run like hell to escape them.”

I explain that, when you fail a roll, you can still succeed, but I also hit them with a Twist (something unexpected complicates things) or Consequences (they are saddled with some penalizing conditions).  In this case, it doesn’t matter, because this is all flashback, but I explain that I’d probably give them consequences – Dave would get the worst of it, cuz he was the ‘lead’ on the roll, and Margie would get a lesser penalty.  For example, I might give Dave the conditions of Tired and Angry after they escape, which Margie might get away with just “Hungry and Thirsty”.  If they’d really blow the roll, I might have Injured Dave instead, and giving Margie Tired.

We cover all that, and there’s quite a little narrative going on to this flashback thing that I like.


Lucia’s skill-to-test is Pathfinder, which she’s quite good at, and I flash back just a bit further, explaining that the three patrols had met up in Barkstone and wanted to find a way to get to Pebblebrook without using the main routes, which was a Pathfinder roll, with Kate helping out via her Weather Watcher skill.  Margie nails it, and we play through how the three patrols sneak into the area around Pebblebrook and start their recon that we’d already played with the other two.

Once we finished describing these scenes, we went around the circle again, with each player describing their mentor presenting their tenderpaw with a cloak and inviting them to stay with the Guard at the end of their first major Patrol. The player tells us the color of the cloak, and why the mentor chose that color.


  • Rosamund’s cloak is green, the color of life and vitality.
  • Lucia’s cloak is buff, the same shade as her fur, to remind her that her own goals and those of the Guard are one.
  • Aelwyn’s cloak is rust colored, “because it won’t show the blood-stains much, kid.”

7. The players then write down a Belief and an Instinct, maybe influenced by those scenes we’d just played. We took quite a bit of time hammering on these, but in the end I think everyone was pretty happy with them, though the Instincts might need to be a little more “triggery” for Margie.

  • Rosamund’s belief is “You can find glory by yourself, but only the Guard can achieve victory.” (which can, no coincidence, be summarized as “All for one, and one for all.”
    Her instinct is “always keep my equipment in fighting repair.”
  • Aelwyn’s belief is “The Guard prevails so long as it has heroes.”
    His instinct is “Always take the most Heroic action.”
  • Lucia’s belief is “Truth and Knowledge are their own reward.” (We’ll see about that.)
    Her instinct is “Discover and Document.” and… “Endure?” Maybe.

8. Friends. Each player tells about a friend they have.

  • Rosamund’s friend is Saxon, who is a good platonic friend and a sparring partner during the long Winter seasons in Lockhaven.
  • Aelwyn’s friend is Brynn, a fellow guard mouse who was recruited at the same time as him.
  • Lucia’s friend is Aunt Moira, a cartographer in Barkstone.

9. Enemies. Each player tells me about an enemy they have. I set up a Versus Test (my roll against theirs) with their enemy.

  • Rosamund’s enemy is Miranda, a potter in Copperwood.  Once a childhood friend, she dislikes Rosamund for “stealing” Saxon.
  • Aelwyn’s enemy is his brother Darwyn, a senior harvester in Ivydale who resent Ael for leaving the ‘family calling’ for fortune and glory in the Guard.
  • Lucia’s enemy is Thom, a patrol leader in the Guard.

The versus tests go like so:

  • Rosamund returns to Copperwood after being admitted officially into the Guard for some R&R. She’s spending the evening at a local pub near her family’s home with her old friends when Miranda shows up.  Eventually, Miranda starts in on Rosa, insinuating that our short little fighter only joined the guard to ‘get’ Saxon or, possibly, just seduce every male Guard in sight.  It’s a Persuasion versus Deception test, with the opinions and beliefs of their mutual friends on the line.  Kate brings in Copperwood-wise on the roll because “I know these mice, and they know me.”

    We tie the roll, I explain the various options when that happens, and Kate opts for a Will-vs.-Will tiebreaker roll, which I win pretty handily.  Margie comments that Miranda just “out-stubborned” the argument, and I go along with that, narrating how Miranda keeps harping and harping on the topic, while Rosamund loses interest fairly quickly and finally just blurts out “Yes! Fine, yes! That’s exACTly why I did it. Are you happy?” And stalks out.  Kate wasn’t loving having lost this conflict, but the final narration seemed to satisfy her pretty well.

  • Aewyn’s versus conflict had to do with a mission in Ivydale to track down some predators, with Aelwyn scouting for his patrol and his brother, scoffing, leading a group of locals on his own.  Aelwyn handily schooled his brother in this contest, proving without a doubt that he knew what he was about in this Guard work.
  • Lucia’s contest was against Thom, in which her patrol and Thom’s were both in one of the northern shore towns, and they fell into a debate about whether or not the weather was going to get worse the next day and interfere with local harvests.  Despite bringing in her widget-wise and a very scientific-looking pinecone barometer, Thom showed that experience and… you know… looking into the sky would always beat an over-clever youngling with some gadgets.

10. Suit Up. Everyone writes down some gear.  Mouse Guard has a lovely, elegant ‘encumbrance’ system: you can’t have more stuff than what fits in the (small) Gear area on the character sheet.  We probably still overgeared, when compared to the simple lists of ‘only the important stuff’ you see with the examples in the book, but whatever.

11. Group Challenge. We then played through one full conflict that happened sometime in the past.  Conflicts in Mouse Guard are a series of double-blind scripted actions, and can be pretty interesting. We’d already gone through an independent and versus test, so this just involves choosing actions and playing out the right tests as a consequence.

The setup for this went back to our Pebblebrook flashback situation.  I told the group that the three of them had discovered a group of Weasel Spies, and it was going to come down to a fight.

  • The Weasels goal was to capture the mice and prevent them from warning anyone else about the weasel plan (I decided this was all happening in the weeks leading up to the big war in 1149 that cost the Territories three towns to the weasels).
  • The player’s goal was to capture the weasels if possible, kill them if not, drive them off at the very least, and destroy their map of the area. (I told them to aim for a lot of stuff on their goal, so that they could still get some of it if they needed to compromise at the end of the Conflict.)

Dave ended up the designated leader for the Conflict, we rolled to determine group dispositions, then they asked me to leave the room so they could script their first three actions.

When I came back, they were ready, and we got to it.

  • The first action was Aelwyn’s – he’s scripted an Attack action with his bow. I had also scripted an Attack, and normally that would mean that, because of Dave’s bow, whoever rolled better would ‘win’, but I was attacking with a thrown knife, so it ended up being two independent Attacks, unblocked by the other side.  Dave rolled better, but their side had less Disposition to start with, so I was still better off then them.
  • The next action turned out to be Lucia, who was doing a “Manuever” (improving the group’s situation), using a bow.  I was also doing a Maneuver action (more thrown knives), which in this case meant that once again, we were just rolling Independently, rather than Versus.   Margie rolled very well, and I didn’t — the end result was that her maneuvering and bow shots left a huge opening for Rosamund. (And extra dice for Rosamund to roll, and one less dice for me to roll in the next action.)
  • Rosamund, with her Fighter 6, scripted an Attack. Surprise Surprise.  I had ALSO scripted an attack.  This was pretty dangerous, because the two of us were both close enough to defeat that we could both be defeated in the same simultaneous action, which would mean that both sides would get everything they wanted from the fight.  Needless to say, that was a pretty dangerous result.  It’s also exactly what happened: Kate rolled a huge pile of dice and wiped me out, but I didn’t need to do much take out the player’s side of the conflict either.

So what happened?  Well, I couldn’t capture them, but I could do the rest — the fight was bloody, brutal, and short; the weasel spies were dead, their map destroyed, but though the mice struggled valiantly to get back and worn the others about what was about to happen, they were too Tired, too Injured, and they simply didn’t get there in time to do any good… maybe things were already too late long before that, but the fact of it is, they blamed themselves.

And that’s where we left off.

Personally, I was very happy with the session – I felt like we got the characters sketched out pretty well, but more than that, I think the skill tests throughout really helped give some color and depth and a shared history to the group that I really enjoy.  I’m definitely looking forward to playing this weekend.

Also, the final wiki’d sheets for Aelwyn, Rosamund, and Lucia.

Machinima: Order of Middle Earth

I’m a big fan of machinima made from games that I’m playing.  My only MMO at the moment is LotRO, and while the game is great, one of the things I’ve missed from WOW is the amount of great machinima movies that the player base produces.  (Lots of crappy ones also, but there’s so many out there that even the 10% that aren’t crap  comprises a pretty vast selection.) By comparison, the selection of LotRO videos is fairly lean.

One of the good LotRO blogs out there (again, a fairly small in number by comparison to WoW) linked to the  “Order of Middle Earth”, put together by a player on the Brandywine.  It’s really quite good.

Order of Middle Earth from Roon3808 on Vimeo.

Something to save to my Blackberry

The simplest little RPG ever

This is an RPG intended to be played with kids. It requires one adult (or semi-adult) GM, and assumes that the player characters go out and have adventures. Said adventures need not be violent gore-fests, but they can be heroic swords-and-sorcery affairs if that’s the way you swing. There is a built-in “Boss Fight” at the end, but that can be a mean substitute teacher as easily as a dragon.


Okay, let’s try this again…

Nope, the site wasn’t working for me — not well enough anyway.

So, I’m back over here where I should be – transferred entirely to WordPress – and working on adding the stuff to this wordpress-based site that I wanted out of the Ning – a forum and better ways to have a conversation.  More info as I create it.

Return to Northmoor – A Free D&D 4e Adventure Podcast

In this final Return to Northmoor episode of the year, Doyce Testerman and Tim White sit down with Fred Hicks of Evil Hat (Spirit of the Century and Don’t Rest Your Head), and OneBadEgg, a new venture producing materials for Dungeons and Dragons 4th Edition.
Fred talks about how his games have evolved from the days of Amber Diceless, to FUDGE, to FATE 1.0-2.0, and the the FATE 3.0 that was used to build Spirit of the Century.
He talks about the burgeoning D&D 4e publishing industry, and the various meanings of OneBadEgg – including one related to WotC.
Fred talks about how 4e has given him a new love of miniatures, and how much work creating a new class for 4e can be.
Finally, Fred talks about adding Story Games elements to your D&D game using the “Circle of Blame”.

Personally, I enjoyed the evolution-from-Amber talk that kept cropping back up in the original transcript, but which Tim WISELY edited down to a few pithy comments. All in all it was a lot of fun to do, and Fred’s discussion of the industry is really interesting.

Tim’s “Return to Northmoor” Meta Episode 2 – Blending D&D and Story Games

The second half of the conversation.
I haven’t even listened all the way through and I’m loving it — we talk about

  • kibbitzing/contributing at the table and when not to
  • more conversations with players
  • open communication and when to tell folks to shut up…
  • shout outs to the local play group, the NYC guys, and Kate
  • playing before you play
  • DnD and how it deals with failure — ways to make failure fun — framing consequences
  • Rules Hacks — couple of those… action points. Shadow of Yesterday Keys, and how they tie into Action Points

Anyway, the first one was cool, and Tim did a great job on this on.

The one where he does a podcast

This is the first of two podcasts I recorded with Tim, about bringing Indie kung-fu to a DnD game.
My favorite quote: with DnD games, you can kinda just show up and roll dice. I’m not saying that every time you play an Indie game you have to bring your “A” game, but you do have to bring A GAME — some kind of willingness to contribute.
Also contains: shout outs to Kate, my old DnD and Amber games, lots of different story game references, multiple A-Team references, and Indie Games as Hacky-sack.

Patch 4.1 out for DnD

Okay, not a patch, but people make the DnD = MMORPG comparison so much, I figured one more tired joke wouldn’t hurt.
Actually, it’s errata and updates for all three books, enough that I hope they correct this stuff in a second printing of the 4.0 rules.
They has completely overhauled the skill challenge system in the DMG errata. All skill challenges now end with 3 failures regardless of complexity, so Complexity 5 challenges are going to be very difficult. However, they also dropped the difficulty of all skill checks by 5 (which is something I was already doing, based on the number crunching geniuses at Story-Games… you know, they don’t right many crunchy games, but those guys grok dice probabilities.
Anyway: all Easy skill checks are now difficulty 5 instead of 10. Moderate skill checks are now DC 10 instead of 15, and Hard checks are now DC 15 instead of 20. This still scales up with level.

Design Challenge: a world without spiders

The premise: A GM is starting up a new game, and wants to have a world with no spiders.
Result: people make suggestions. My personal favorite is the one where Lolth the Demon Queen of Spiders has been killed, and her death took all her little eight-legged minions out with her.
The results, it appears, might be pretty catastrophic.

Spiders: We’d Probably All Be Dead Without Them
Why? Because spiders are the dominant terrestrial predators on the planet.
Why? Because there are so many of them. (An acre of English meadow in late summer has been estimated to contain more than 2 million spiders, and it’s safe to assume that wetlands and undisturbed forest contain significantly more.)
Why else? They eat a lot. So what? Because they structure insect communities wherever they occur, spiders play a vital role in the terrestrial food chain. Without all those hungry, carnivorous spiders, insect populations would explode, food crops would be decimated, ecological balances would be ravaged, and humans would probably starve within a matter of months.”
* Spiders are the largest entirely carnivorous order of animals.
* Assuming an average consumption of 0.1 gram of prey per spider per day, the spiders in one hectare of forest would consume 47,500 kilograms of prey per year–which is equal to 47.5 metric tons of insects!
Their sheer number make spiders vital in maintaining the balance of nature. Because they structure insect communities wherever they occur, spiders play a vital role in the terrestrial food chain. Without all those hungry spiders, insect populations would explode, food crops would be decimated, and ecological balances ravaged. Humans would probably starve within a matter of months–if they hadn’t already succumbed to various insect-borne diseases. No spider, incidentally, has been found to transmit disease.”
The spider is really man’s best friend. Imagine a world over-run with flies. Life would be intolerable! Without our friend the spider eating other insects like the fly, many serious pests would rise in number and present humankind with an incredible problem – one which would seriously affect our chances of survival. Even the good old household spider, like the little one I have here, does his part. Imagine how much it would cost to develop tiny little robots to roam over your house and clean up the maggots, eggs, flies, larva and other living things hidden away in every crack and cranny throughout your home. The spider does it all for you, and all for nothing. Most times he even has the sense to stay out of the way when you are around. So if you want to keep the real pests down, tolerate the spider a bit more in your home. If you really cannot bear to have one in the room with you, go and fetch a glass, pop it over the spider before he runs for it, and slip a postcard or stiff bit of paper under the glass to temporarily seal it in. You can then turn the glass upright and with the card or paper still held on top, take it out into the garden and let it go. One deft flick of the glass low to the ground should do it.”

Ecological impact of spider predation: a critical assessment of Bristowe’s and Turnbull’s estimates.

In any case, a fun little mind-game.

How did they know?

Waiting in my Inbox, early this morning…
Not quite the 60% discount is was on preorder, but the box set of all three core books is still 40+% less than the sticker price, and approximately half what the three books would cost, purchased separately (sorry, FLGS).

OM Freakin’ G: The DnD 4.0 game with the seven-year old got even more awesome.

You haven’t been keeping up with the exploits of D and his dad Tony? Why on earth not? Go here. Read.
Turns out two of the kid’s characters can speak draconic, and they’ve been fighting kobolds, so the kid is making Dad translate what they’re saying all the time.

At this point in the fight it was very much all over but for the agonized draconic shouting. But that, interestingly, is when things got really funny and weird.
“GGLgLGGGLGG! SSSSSSSssss ss ss …”
“What’s that mean?”
“We are done for, my brother! Let us die with honor!”, I say. After all … they’re toast. Everyone knows it.
Quoth D: “Do you surrender?”
>Blink, blink< "Uhhhh ... SSS?" "What's that mean?" "Uhhhh ... yes?" So now he's got two prisoners, and I'm all like "What the heck is he going to do with prisoners? Is there going to be horrific torture involved? Is he going to wring information out of them, then slaughter them? Kids can be dark ... " Quoth D: "Are you good now?" >Blink, blink< "Uh ... I don't think we're really ... uh ... good or evil. We're just sorta ... us." "Oh. Well I've decided you're going to be good." "But that ... that doesn't actually make us good." "It will. I believe in you." Wow. His major adventure-genre influences have been Fantastic Four, Naruto and Avatar ... but I didn't realize he'd actually been listening.
So he took them back to Winterhaven. He said “You’re going to live here now, and you’re going to be good.” He spent all afternoon talking to extremely mistrustful villagers, convincing them to give these two guys a chance.
In the interest of having chances to, y’know, fight (which D definitely agrees is a lot of fun) we established that he’d gotten lucky and captured the only two non-evil kobolds in the whole tribe, and that the rest of them were terribly evil right down to the core and needed to be killed with extreme death.
D listened to that and said “Yeah, because otherwise we’d have to rescue everybody, and I don’t have enough legos for that.”

Can’t. Stop. Grinning.

Learn about DnD 4.0 with some cool, funny guys.

Okay, so here’s what happened.
Tycho and Gabriel from Penny Arcade, plus Scott Kurtz from PvP, got together with one of the R&D guys from Wizards of the Coast, who runs a DnD game for them.
They recorded the whole thing. Plus, Gabe and Scott drew some scenes from the adventure.
So what the teeming public gets out of it: the whole adventure has been recorded as eight podcasts, plus funny comics.
But that’s not all!
See, Tycho plays d20 all the time. Scott hasn’t played in years, but did at one time. Gabe has never played DnD or any other tabletop RPG at all.
And the GM is really good and takes his time explaining everything, so you find out about the game’s system in a way that’s really natural — the guy is REALLY good explaining the game.
And you have players who are just kind of excellent to listen to.
The first session is here.
The second session is here.
You have to create a login to the Wizard’s web site to see the stuff and download the podcasts. If you have the least little interest in the game, at all, this is how I would suggest you learn about the game, before even looking at the rules, or buying them.
I have to admit, I’ve been looking over the rules for the levels 21 to 30, the “Epic” ranges, and thinking that those rules represent exactly the direction our long-time DnD game went… an ogre warrior gathering an army to become a battle master… or a cleric on the way to demigod-hood, for example (she gave birth her deity’s son, after all)… it’s a shame these weren’t the rules we were using back then. We would have had somewhere to go.

For the nerd on your Father’s Day list

Dungeons and Dragons, 4th Edition.
I’m sorry, I’m just hearing too much good stuff about it. The indie roleplaying community is going gah-gah over it. “If old-school basic Dungeons and Dragons were rewritten by Days of Wonder, after they’d played Spirit of the Century for six months.”
It’s meant to be a high magic game… crazy high magic like rivers of flowing earth and villages of dragonblood humanoids. Dunno if I love that, but …
Eh. I dunno. I mention it mostly because of the great reactions from people whose opinions and gaming tendencies I frequently agree with, and from this actual-play write up, in which the gamer’s seven year old son plays through the first DnD 4th edition module, simultaneously running five characters, keeps all the rules straight (even for Attacks of Opportunity), and outmaneuvers his dad.
I confess: the battlefield rules sound really fun.

Dragonlance Animated Movie: first one released in a few days.

Holy crap. Holy CRAP.
Okay, the animation isn’t great, but the voices are pretty good. Why am I so excited?
Here’s the story with Dragonlance. Basically, a group of DnD players back in the days of ADnD, working at TSR, ran a campaign. The two authors who were writing the books basically statted out the characters from their story and everyone divvied them up. A huge amount of stuff that happened in that game made it into the story, but as importantly, the idea of the story superseding the basic DnD practices of “kill it and take their stuff” infused the campaign.
It didn’t hurt that the books are actually pretty good.
When the books were released, TSR also released a series of campaign modules designed to let anyone play those characters through, essentially, the story of the books, with some extra stuff that you only see alluded to in the books. It was something like 14 modules, I think — an epic, epic kind of story. Huge.
But more importantly, a lot of the players in my group (this was back in high school) read the books and were really jazzed about the characters and the story. They saw what the characters were doing, they saw what happened to them, and what kind of choices they made — more realistic, less ‘loot it!’ And that informed their play.
In short, that was the first game I ran where people weren’t so much playing a group, tabletop version of Gauntlet, and started roleplaying.
The story was a horrible, horrible railroad from one end to the other, I’m sure — no way it could be otherwise, really, when you’re trying to follow the basic storyline of a book — but it was a golden, special time in my memory, and I preordered the movie this morning.

So Conflicted

The Zombie Fluxx card games combines a great love and a great hate of mine.
Love: Zombies. Man, I likes me some zombies.
Hate: Fluxx. I’m goal oriented enough that the constantly shifting ‘win’ requirements in Fluxx actually give me a headache (and remind me of a few too many bad I.T. projects).
I’m torn. I want to order a deck, but it might only be so I can set it on fire.

[SotC/Fate] A Different Take on Phases

From one of the game’s author’s a great tweak to the phases in SotC character generation to move away from a time-oriented series of phases and instead use a more organic series of questions to find answers for:
* Who are you?
* Who are you connected to?
* What’s your big issue?
* What kind of situations do you see yourself being involved in?
it’s very very good.
Don’t get me wrong — I love the phases of character creation in the standard Spirit of the Century rules, and I’ve used them both in a standard game and an Amber game with good success, but the phases themselves are pretty closely tied to the post-Great War setting. This tweak allows you to ‘fit’ character generation into virtually any setting with no problems at all — it has all the Aspecty-goodness of SotC with some great flavor added from things like Primetime Adventures “issues” and even the old-school Amber questionnaires. Good stuff.

When you know the indie designers are doing something right

“Story Game” (400 page, hard-bound, beautiful, hard-crunch, sci-fi blaster, smacking) Burning Empires won Origins’ RPG of the year award, beating out Exalted, 2nd Edition and the new RuneQuest.
There is a vanishingly small difference between a mainstream RPGs and indie productions in terms of print quality (since most use Indie Press, Lulu, or another POD), and has been evident in the last couple years, no difference at all in quality of design.

Bang bang bang

I’ve talked (a lot) in the past about running games that are essentially built on nothing but Bangs (or as SotC would have it, decision points). In (very) brief, this is a mode of GMing in which (most commonly) you come up with dilemmas that the character has to deal with, somehow. That’s actually simplifying it: Bangs are about creating a situation in which the reaction says something interesting about the character.The elements of this situation (and this is important) have no ‘right’ choice in mind.
In game, play progresses up to this situation, then the situation is presented, then the player(s) look at their options (probably inventing new options as well), and make a decision. We all (even the player) learn a little something new about that character in a backhand way, and play continues in the direction their choice and actions dictate. *
I haven’t always explained the technique very well, despite using it pretty much exclusively for a number of years. Thankfully, someone else stepped in to talk about it.
Mike Holmes is one of the best GMs I’ve had the pleasure of playing it, and he is something of an expert in this style of play. During a recent discussion of ‘what a Bang is,’ someone asked Mike to start up a new thread in which he breaks down all the different kinds of Bangs you can bring into your game.
He took up the gauntlet here: Story Games for Everybody – Bang Types. Good stuff, presenting even more variations on the theme that I plan to shamelessly rip off, because there’s a BUNCH I hadn’t really considered.

Continue reading “Bang bang bang”

Wierd internet gestalt

So, I was at the Forge forum, and reading down the forum thread: [Forge Midwest]Interview with Ron Edwards, and promised myself to listen to it, cuz I met both the participants for the first time at the con, and that was really cool, and apparently the interview is good also.
Then, down toward the end, there’s this:

We all wonder, ‘why are you [story-game proponents] so pissed at systems like White Wolf? They inspire rich story in their setting and flavor text, and the rules are simple enough to get out of our way and let us tell our story.” And it becomes a badge of honor to say, “there are lots of times we don’t even ever roll dice, all night long!”
Hey, I’ve been that guy and part of me still is. But the thing is, what I think The Forge and Ron and so many others who’ve been growing the story games movement over the past seven years, what they’re saying is, “If you have to get your system out of the way in order to go into story mode, then you need a new system that actually can be used IN story mode.”

And I look at the last couple posts I’ve made and yeah… that’s at least part of what I’m saying.

SotC Hack

John Harper (author of Agon) is playing in a Spirit of the Century game and hacking in some things that I really find useful and interesting. over at The Mighty Atom: SotC Hack is a post about tweaking the Stress/Consequences bars to make Consequences happen more and generally speed up combats a bit. It’s a direct yoink from the upcoming Dresden Files rules.
Actually, he’s got quite a few insightful SotC tweaks discussed over there (and Fred Hicks is conferring with him in the comments), so it’s worth checking the whole thing out: The Mighty Atom.

For the record…

Spirit of the Century is a great game for high-adventure pulp hero gaming. It’s not so appropriate for Chandleresque pulp-noir games. Fly From Evil, however, is going to be six kinds of awesome for that kind of game, and I intend to own it, oh yes.
Just as soon as it’s out.

As though I needed another reason

[Breaking the Ice] – You proved me wrong!

When I initially heard about Breaking the Ice however-long-ago that was, my immediate gut reaction was “Oh, come ON! That won’t be fun!” I don’t know what it was about the game (or rather, the idea of the game) that rubbed me the wrong way. But there it is: me, monstrously predisposed to hating Breaking the Ice.
The flip side of have strong gut reactions to lots of things is that you eventually learn that your gut isn’t always right. So, when I had the opportunity to try the game out, I did.
It was really, really fun.

Someday, I hope to get a chance to play that game. Until then, I’ll just carry it around and reread it. 🙂

Old School Holocaust

The boys of the Durham Three go super-old school with a game of Twilight 2000 and discuss what about the game is definitive old-school and what makes that awesome.
Quote of the podcast: “I just don’t have a problem beating up feral children… in a game. You put a feral child in front of me in a game, I’m not going to feel bad about blowing him up with his own grenade.”

Theory, Hardcore

I was going to do two posts this morning; one about this, and one about someone using Spirit of the Century to run a Classic Traveler game, which is cool.
However, this is an important link, and I don’t want to distract from it.
Vincent’s Roleplaying Theory, Hardcore
This single page of posts, written by that Dogs in the Vineyard guy over the course of months, comprises the most lucid, easy to read, approachable discussion of ‘indie’ rpg theory you’ll ever find, period. Everyone who’s ever even kind of sorta looked sideways at all those Forge neologisms or dealt with one of those hippie games I play should read it. Everyone should read it.
More importantly, everyone SHOULD read it. Read, especially, “A Small Thing About Suspense” and “A Small Thing About Death” (I’m looking at you, Tombstone RPG!)
But read it all. It’s all good.

I hate that idea umm… Here’s what I like about that idea…

Remi, from the Durham Three podcast, posts some actual-play on Primetime Adventures, played at Camp Nerdly (which ran the same weekend I was all warm and sunny in Florida, so I don’t really feel bad for missing it.) [Camp Nerdly – PTA] Sexitricity.
Why am I linking it? Because in one part of the thread, Remi breaks down how he handles the Session Pitch — he said earlier that he disallows any negative input at that point in the game, and someone asks for more info, and he brings it:

First I ask everyone for something that’s gotten them jazzed in the last week or two. An idea, a TV show, a piece of music, whatever. I make it clear that the show is going to be a synthesis of what everyone’s excited about, and that I’ll be the one doing most of the formal synthesizing. I go around the table in whatever order people want to go. For this session Duty, The Bene Gesserritt, Babarella, and the Preacher comic book series were all mentioned.
Joshua mentioned the Bene Gesserritt and someone immediately picked up and said “Oh! We could be, like, the companions in Firefly!” and someone else said, “The companions were kind of cool, but the lame thing about them was . . .” and I stopped it cold, insisting the person only talk about what they liked about the companions, not disliked. The pitch session could have degenerated right there into people sniping one another’s ideas, which when you’re gathering material is death. The player immediately turned around and said what he’d like to see out of a companion-style idea, and we built from there.

This is something I wish I’d read before the “Tarot Game” Mortal Coil session. As that did not happen, I’ll have to settle for enforcing that guideline unswervingly in future play, in any game, even in-game (especially with strong narrative-switching like PTA) — a kind of “never say no to the scene” improve acting rule/technique.

The “we just had a joke” timer.

GameCraft :: View topic – The Disruption Hourglass of Death (table rule, any game system)

Anyway, I do love our style of roleplaying, and it’s just a big habit of mine to, even in the middle of a serious moment, to break it up with a bad pun, or a joke, or a double-entendre or something. Rick has recently been doing the same thing, and even more so. This hasn’t disrupted things to the point of, “Shut up, you dick, you’re breaking my concentration!” or anything like that. But we all agree, even the comment-giver, that:
* Levity is AWESOME, and welcome in certain amounts.
* However, busting caps right in the middle of a dramatic moment with a pun can really take the spotlight from them.
* And more often than not, since the mood has a ‘crack’ in it, it’s very easy to follow it up with more jokes (Rick says something funny, Quintin follows up on it, I get in, and 5 minutes later we’re like, “OK, what were we doing again?”)
* Which leads to derailing the drama.
One crack every 5-10 minutes or so? Harmless.
However, we know ourselves better, and know that that first crack usually starts a chain reaction which derails the discsussion or roleplaying moment.

I’ll simply point out that the group Andy describes in the post sounds a LOT like the local Denver group, where one joke inevitably leads to another; or where one quote from a movie inevitably leads to another quote (or, more inexplicable, the SAME one, repeated, as though to confirm we heard).

Bringing Down the Finnish Pain

The Bringing Down the Pain “Group” rules from the Finnish version of TSOY, translated back into English. It’s worth noting that the guy who translated the game is also a very good rules wonk and tweaked things here and there in the rules, so seeing his version of the rules are really interesting and often enlightening.
At any rate, it’s not that his version of the Group BDtP rules are different than the English version, they’re just looking at the whole situation, and explaining it, from an very different angle (134 degrees rotated horizontally, 32 degrees vertically :). It might be useful to get your head around it.

Mortal Coil

This weekend, Kate’s in town and I wanted to have a social kind of gaming thing — while both she and I game, we really haven’t done much gaming together at all — basically two games I’ve run had a few too many players and were both kind of chaotic (either as a result of the group size, or intentionally, or both).
So anyway, due to the super-creative nature of the player’s we’d be doing this with, and the fact that the my regular group’s history involves a fair amount of diceless stuff, I decided on running Mortal Coil, which I’ve been excited to run, and seeing what happened.
The problem: I haven’t actually run MC before.
The solution: test run with two of my ‘regular’ players (Dave and Margie) to go through the whole ‘pitch session’, character creation, and a sample conflict to see where the hitches and questions arose.
The result: [AP] From the Casebook of Donne & Donne, Detectives — lots of fun and, as you can see from my post to the Forge, lots of rules questions.
The whole thing DID prompt me to go back to the Mortal Coil section of RandomWiki though, and reread MortalCoil – Conflict Examples. These were all written by the game’s author; I thought they were cool and useful before I’d run the game — having now run it, I think they’re damned near invaluable.

Minions Assemble!

Minion Cards!

Minions, being the salt and bone of Spirit of the century, need heavy use and lots and lots of variation. For this I think Minion Cards are good help for hard-pressed Game Masters and the reason for this Thread.

I’m such a visual person. It’s totally stuff like this that gets me revved up to run or play in a game. MAN this would be cool! I want to engage in wrestling and fisticuffs with Ape-man Scientists!

Awesome… (and yet, ‘wary’)

((With thanks to Andy Kitkowski for the post title.))
How… interesting.

Wizards of the Coast is offering a limited supply of advanced reading copies of:
Confessions of a Part-Time Sorceress
A Girl’s Guide to the Dungeons & Dragons Game
By Shelly Mazzanoble
With tongue-in-cheek humor and plenty of self-mockery, Shelly Mazzanoble chronicles her unexpected descent into the world of Dungeons and Dragons. Shelly’s a girlie-girl through and through, but when a friend asks her to join his D&D game as an 134-year-old sorceress named Astrid Bellagio, she agrees, never expecting to actually like it. In spite of all the stereotypes—or maybe because of them—she actually finds herself getting game.
Part Angus, Thongs, and Full-Frontal Snogging, part D&D for Dummies, this book lays out how to create a character, make D&D-themed snacks (Magic Missile Meatballs, anyone?) and play the game, all the while taking a light-hearted look at the myths and realities of gamer stereotypes. For teen girls who love reading fantasy, for librarians running gaming clubs, or for those of you who want to figure out how to start one, here’s your stepping stone to a fun, rewarding, and totally geek-chic experience at the library, at school, or at home.
Coming September 2007
ISBN: 978-0-7869-4726-3
Nonfiction—YA to adult

Advance Ordering
Author Bio:

Shelly Mazzanoble believes her childhood was too functional to become a really good writer, so she has decided to go insane. She likes to think of herself as the Snow White of Seattle, living among loads of personified inanimate objects and imaginary friends, including her teddy bear Pooh and her condo, Betty. When not playing with and feeding her ghost dog tuna sandwiches from Subway, Shelly is busy fending off slander lawsuits from family and editing her collection of short stories about a girl who lives in Seattle with loads of imaginary friends and ghost dog. Shelly loves binge-eating, over-exercising and HGTV.

I’d almost buy the book on the bio alone.

Captain America

Marvel’s Civil War storyline (which directly addresses things like 9/11 and the Patriot Act) makes a pretty bold move. (Huge spoilers if you haven’t been keeping up with the story, but plan to read it later.)
I found the article pretty interesting for a lot of reasons: it talks about the way a story for a supers character can develop, why certain things sort of *need* to happen, and it involves one of my personal favorite characters in comics (along with Wolverine and Spidey).


Related to that last post: steampunk magazine – putting the punk back into steampunk

Before the age of homogenization and micro-machinery, before the tyrannous efficiency of internal combustion and the domestication of electricity, lived beautiful, monstrous machines that lived and breathed and exploded unexpectedly at inconvenient moments. It was a time where art and craft were united, where unique wonders were invented and forgotten, and punks roamed the streets, living in squats and fighting against despotic governance through wit, will and wile.
Even if we had to make it all up.

Also Steampunk Rayguns!

“It’s a Seeeeecret!”

The Durham 3 talk about Secrets in Gaming — very specifically, in the first couple minutes they talk about secrets in Shadow of Yesterday, which makes it REALLY relevant for the players in the Petrana game. To whit: if you have a ‘big secret thing’ that you’re character’s all about, and you don’t tell anyone about it, there’s no way to get awarded for it by the game system, which is how ‘big things my character is all about’ are measured.

Just in general, though, I think it’s an excellent discussion of how to HAVE secrets as character, NOT have them as players, and still ENJOYING them in the game.

Generally, as a ‘nothing up my sleeve’ player/GM, I like this approach a lot, I support it — I like having that kind of open discussion and open work on character Secrets — we’re using that level of openess in The Mountain Witch, to an extent, and I think it helps everyone socket into the game. Also, discusses GM-secrets and how to approach that.
It’s just a good podcast. Recommended.

Tis a day of podcastiness

Son of Kryos Podcast #27: Given everyone screen time (an ongoing concern of mine). Playing RPGs online, such as over IM, E-mail, and Forums (something I’m doing right now with Mountain Witch). Plus what to do when you pick up a game that you’ve not played in a long time (something that comes up alllllll the time). There’s just not anything in there that isn’t useful or relevant to me right now.

Play the GM

Have you never GM’d? Have you GM’d only a little? Have you just be kinda curious about GMing and, along those lines, GMing indie hippy games like Primetime Adventures or The Mountain Witch?
Are you a vet GM with lots of ‘trad’ experience, looking to spread the authority of the GM around a little bit, or just get a little more ‘play’ time?
Read this thread: Story Games for Everybody – Calling all Non-GM’s — it’s a good poll of folks who don’t usually GM who have tried out the reins with indie/hippy games of various kinds, what they’ve found they’ve liked and don’t like. Good, good stuff.

Online Gaming Tool

Gametable: shared whiteboard/mapping/tactical space, plus die-rolling. Perfect tool to run alongside Skype, when your players are geographically dispersed.


No-prep, quick-start play using the 400+ pulp extravaganza, Spirit of the Century? Yes.


strange maps, a fun blog with a ton of interesting bits on it, complete with — of course — maps. Maps of the planet where most of the Flash Gordon action took place. Maps illustrating where the phrase “beyond the pale” comes from.
All in all, good stuff.

Note: I am not a cat person

Before the dawn of Time, all the creatures of the world came together for a great competition. The benefit to the winners were many, the most obvious being the honor due the greatest of all creatures. In return, the mightest participants in the competition had to agree to protect the weakest for all eternity.
Cats win.
Humans come in dead last.
The result: Cat.

Gaming with Kids

Have Games, Will Travel discusses Faery’s Tale, The Princes Kingdom, and “playing well with others.” Good stuff, as always, and just the thing to have on the headphones on a Friday leading into a game-less weekend.

Have Games, will Roach

Have Games, Will Travel #74 talks about Don’t Rest Your Head (dark “supers” in the vein of Dark City, Matrix, Neverwhere, awesomeness written by Fred Hicks) and the Shab al-Hiri Roach.
I’m just… incredibly awed by how well Paul Tevis explains an entire game (setting, mechanics, and play) in 10 minutes. He is REALLY, really, good at it.
Heh. Good quote re: Shab al-Hiri Roach:

“I don’t want you to think this is a game you can play to win… but it is definitely a game you SHOULD play to win.”

… if you’ve played, you know what he means. 🙂

have Spy, will travel

Have Games, Will Travel — Go to #73. Play it. Skip to 11 minutes in and listen to him talking about Wilderness of Mirrors.
“This game fixes every problem I’ve ever had with the spy genre.”
His description of how the ‘mission prep’ works in Wilderness of Mirrors, versus how “planning” works in other spy games makes me laugh in regret over Spycraft’s system, and hungry for the awesome way it works in WoM. It’s HOT.
I want this thing so bad, and it’s just not available yet. 🙁

Wear your Roach on your Sleeve

Bully Pulpit’s Spreadshirt Store, with a number of fun Pemberton Panthercat shirts, and some fun “MURUB” (Copulate with this person!) Shab al-Hiri Roach shirts. I’m personally very interested in the brown Panthercats shirt, but the Green ring-tee is cool, also.
I asked Jason, and he said he had to take the pink girls MURUB shirt with the sparkly-paint Roach logo down for the time being, because they’re having trouble with the sparkle-ink.
This makes me sad: I mean, who doesn’t need more shirts with sparkle ink on them?

Gaming podcasty goodness

PodCast: Sons of Kryos (note: this is a sound file)
Good stuff in this broadcast:
* What to do when not everyone can make it — have an emergency ‘spare tire’ game ready to go, and what games are good for that kind of play. I totally agree with the games they listed as well — except for Contenders, I own every single one. Really want to run Mountain Witch.
* Character Control
* The Myth of the GM social caste

Analyzing System

Ron talks with Levi about his new system, The Exchange (which sounds cool, though maybe not as cool as The Cog War, a diceless thing that sounds very very cool and is apparently almost ready for distribution.
I particularly like this bit of history on reward systems in games.

Quick conceptual point: reward and resolution
In most games before the mid-1990s, character improvement was the main perceived reward. It occurred in units of one or more sessions (often more), and only between rather than during sessions. A number of house-rules, starting ‘way back when, used the points of character-improvement as dice-modifiers, usually re-rolls or take-backs, although this didn’t show up in official game texts for a long time.
In other words, a reward mechanic limited to character improvement and only taking place between sessions (sometimes many sessions) wasn’t enough to satisfy the needs of a reward system, in a lot of cases. People sometimes wanted a reward mechanic that affected how play itself was conducted. Later, interestingly, character improvement became an important part of play as well (I don’t know what game was first; one mid-1990s example is Morpheus, and a later one is Obsidian). At this late date, it seems to me that mechanics like Luck/Unluck in Champions or Good Stuff/Bad Stuff in Amber were kind of transitional between a D&D model and a (for example) Shadow of Yesterday one, where reward/improvement is continuous and ongoing.
To put all this into a nutshell, one trend about reward mechanics is that they moved from fixed-effect, between-play, relatively rare events into constant, during-play, manipulable-effect events, and as such, highly integrated with specific moments of resolution, not just reward. I’m not saying this trend started with bad and ended up with good. I’m saying that now, the whole spectrum of reward-to-resolution is available to be tailored for a particular game.

I think one of the reasons that TSoY actually jolts folks is because of that ‘in game’ reward system, ticking away — it’s really not something folks are used to. By comparison, TSoY runs this different than any other ‘indie’ narr game:
* Sorcerer’s system of stat-improvement is very much ‘over multiple sessions’ in the traditional vein
* PTA has no means of character improvement, and Fan Mail, which IS the main reward in the game, feels more like an ergonomic ‘dice sharing’ system than “XP”.
* Dogs in the Vineyard comes closest to that middle-of-the-game model, with Fallout Experience (very probably) accruing after every conflict, but that’s a bit different than TSoY as well — DitV has dice rolls that tell you ‘okay, you can have XP now,’ thus absolving the player of the ‘guilt’ of enjoying it when they get rewarded — the dice told them to, after all. In TSoY, you have to actively reach out and claim the points you earn for the things you’re doing, and people shy away from that, conditioned for years by the gamer attitude that wanting XP and improvement is somehow juvenile. TSoY vets call it “Key Guilt.”
Eh. Tangent — at any rate, it’s shaping up to be another interesting conversation between Ron and Levi, and less Socratic than the first one.

The Typhoid Bay Buccaneers will sail again! :)

Via Story Games:

I really loved Blood Bowl. I loved the idea. I loved all the little asides in the books, the pictures, the gags, the teams and races, imagining this absurd game of fantasy football. The Star Player (yellow) and Companion (red) are still sitting on my shelf, and the game itself is buried somewhere along with some painted miniatures. I used to be dreaming up teams, matches, whole seasons. There were a couple of problems, though:
1) There were never enough players available for running a whole league or something, and it took loooong.
2) There was never enough money to buy all those minis and seldom the skill and leisure to paint them.
3) The actual game wasn’t that much fun since the rules were kind of imbalanced and, well, crappy.
For 13 long years, I didn’t think a lot about Blood Bowl. I loved the game it could have been, not the game it was. And then I learned, only now, that it has become that game.
FUMBBL :: Online Blood Bowl League
((Like I need more ways to waste time, but MAN…))

Variant Roach

Story Games for Everybody – Conflict of Interest Hack for Shab Al-Hiri Roach.
Is it really a rules hack when the guy that wrote the game says “I like your way better?”
For what it’s worth, we’ve been playing pretty much the way Iago mentioned near the bottom of the thread: “I will frame a scene that specifically screws with THAT PLAYER’S GUY, RIGHT THERE,” and thus I will have opposition. Alternately, make yourself such a juicy target that everyone will aim conflicts at you. 🙂


Comments should remember who you are now.
Subscriptions to individual comments MIGHT be working — it’s sort of hard for me to tell. 😛

Three shall be the number…

Well of Urd: Technique: Jared’s Rule of Three

If you have the opportunity to describe something, give it one to three short, succinct details that make it stand out. Use the technique for characters, locations, objects, or anything else that you want to introduce into the narrative fiction that you and your friends are creating.

I’ll point out, as Rob D does in the comments to that post, that Roger Zelazny’s been quoted a couple times as ascribing to this method of conveying character in his books, and Zelazny does nothing better than introducing characters in one or two sentences that jump off the page and slap you in the face so you remember them.
Hell, this isn’t good advice for gaming, this is good advice for creation of story in general — while I’m tweaking up Hidden Things with some recent input, I think I might boil down some of the characters when they’re introduced and see what happens. A little voice in my head is telling me that most of my characters are introduced with about three details already. I hope that’s true.
I overdetailed Rowena Gower in my Galactic game yesterday… not a lot, but a bit. (Not counting all the ecological evangelizing she did, just facts about her.) Hmm.
Anyway. Really really good rule.

Blog tweaking

Yeah, I’m fiddling with the design. I don’t intend to stay with what’s up here right now, but I wante to change what I had, cuz I was sick of it, and picked something bland so I’d be motivated to update it soon.

Capes cogitating

So I’ve been (slowly) reading and trying to parse Capes, from Muse of Fire Games. It’s slow going.
… and then I actually went to the site and started going through the Flash Demo of the game. That’s f’in slick, y’all — even if you have no interest in a GM-less supers game, I recommend looking checking it out as (a) a wicked-cool game demo (b) some pretty neat mechanics (c) a wicked-cool g– nevermind. Said that already.
Anyway. Pretty darn neat game.

The Aging Gamer

Story Games for Everybody – Designing for the 25-35 Demographic

3) I have disposable income, better than I had at an earlier age, but I need to be more selective with it.
I can spend $50 on a game, or I can spend $50 on a movie or beer. I _know_ I’m going to drink the beer or see the movie. I’m not as surre about the game, no matter what I’d like to have happen.
4)If I can get 4 people together for 4 hours, 2 of them are going to be kibbitzing. It also might only happen once a month.
If we end up playing a game, something had better happen. 4 hours of chargen? I think not. 4 hours of a single combat? It’d better be an epic battle, not two rooms and a couple weedy goblins.

Good stuff, and more good stuff down thread, notably:
1. There’s no point in capping the age range at 35.
2. Related to number 3 above, TIME is just as much if not MORE of a resource allocation problem than money.
3. Chargen shouldn’t take a four hour session… but what if chargen itSELF is fun… what if it’s ALSO play?
Good thinking juice.

This is insanely cool…

Reversed Engineer

The challenge- Design a character sheet. NOT A GAME. Just a character sheet. You have 2 weeks to do this. Everyone may submit a design, but they may only submit 1.
At the end of the two week entrance period the sheets will be randomly distributed to the designers (you will not get your own). Using only the character sheet as a guide, the designers will have an additional 2 weeks to design a game that uses that character sheet.

I’m friggin’ sorry as hell I missed this. I love.. LOVE a good character sheet. 🙂

So where’ve I been for the last 24 hours?

So here’s what happened.
Over on Story-Games, someone posted this:

You played it till your thumbs blistered, now write it up RPG style!
It occurs to me that many people today who browse the 1KM1KT website have only played computer games and have no (or very little) experience with tabletop games.
This 24 Hour RPG contest is about introducing our computer gaming audience to the world of tabletop gaming!
Adapt a computer game into a tabletop RPG in 24 Hours! Any computer game will do: Doom3, PacMan, Zaxxon or World of Warcraft (for the uninspired).
The goal is to breech the gap between hardcore computer gamers and the awesomeness that is tabletop role-playing. Read that: “Try and make your content accessible to new gamers.”
The submissions will be judged by the folks here at and the winner will have their game heralded in our newsletter, bumped to the front page, and will receive a fabulous 1KM1KT fun pack! The fun pack consists of an official 1KM1KT T-shirt and T-shirt packing material! (T-shirt packaging material may present a choking hazard)
The Rules:
1) Games must be based on PC or console style video games.
2) Games must be completed within a continuous 24 hour period.

And I thought:


And I didn’t really think anything of it.
And then I thought:

Maybe X-Com.

And I did, in fact, actually work out about five post-it notes worth of thinking on the X-com idea. Meanwhile, on the original thread, people were talking about some whacked out stuff like Katamari Damacy and stuff like that. One guy took 90 seconds to write up Pong, using two quarters, and I’m sorta looking at the X-com thing and knowing I could never give it the tactical grit that I love in that game, not in a 24 hour span, not really.
And I told Kate about the whole thing, and Kate was like:

Man, you should totally do like… Frogger! Or… ooh! Pitfall. I used to LOOOOVE Pitfall!

And I was like… yeah, heh. Funny. X-com x-com x-com… I even started up my old saved game of X-Com from last year and played a few nights away. Good game.
And then someone in the Story-games thread posted a link to Lifemeter, which is like a site where people draw art based on old console games… and there was This One.
And I thought… damn… office guy… why an office frog?
And then I went and looked at the old art for the side of the Frogger stand-up console. You’ll see what I mean.
And this goddamn game got stuck in my head.

This is the nightmare of modern office life: work that crushes the spirit, office cubicles as cells, and managers as wardens. The office is a dehumanizing environment for the employees – the kind of thing that makes you a cog in the machine – a number. Nothing.
Faced with that, driven to a breaking point, human beings generally do one of two things: create their own petty fiefdoms and delusions of importance… or Get Out.
Frogger is about Getting Out. You remember the artwork on the side of the old Frogger arcade console? (Here’s a hint: look at the picture on the front cover of this game.) A frog, rushing somewhere, vest and tie awry, briefcase in hand. It’s easy to think that he’s imitating the White Rabbit, muttering “I’m late, I’m late…”, except that you know from the game itself that he’s trying to get Home. He’s an office worker, trying to get away, get across all these obstacles, and get to the thing he wants – the thing he needs.
Something happened to our worker bee that made him want to get away from the buzz; something hit that cog and made it slip off.

I grabbed the idea of that little game… and Office Space.
…Falling Down.
…Lost in Translation.
…Harold and Kumar go to White Castle…
And then…
…Shawn of the Dead
…Grosse Pointe Blank
…Road to Perdition.
This is what I ended up with.
Frogger, by Doyce Testerman – 24 Hour RPG submission – 2006

I’m feeling Afraid…

Afraid: a new game from Vincent Baker, using the Dogs mechanics, for playing horror. Link is to the playtest docs, which in turn sort of require understanding/owning DitV to get what’s going on, but the final game will be it’s own thing.
Also, Vincent’s just finished up Mechaton, which is a good game for doing battles with mecha built from legos. My only problem with this is that I don’t have legos, but I do have a lot of old battletech minis. Darn.

Close your eyes and think of [insert country here]

After having just finished two Greg Rucka books, this is very interesting to me: The National Security Decision Making Game.

The NSDM Game recreates real-world international crises of the present or immediate future. Ideas for scenarios are taken from current headlines and developing trends. Players take the parts of national leaders, dignitaries, ambassadors, military leaders, and political groups and are given the opportunity to try and solve all the world’s problems.
At the opening of the game Controllers will select a scenario appropriate for the number of players present. Players are assigned places within a Country or Organization cell, typically representing major world powers like the US, Russia, China, Japan, Great Britain, France, Germany, Iran, Israel, etc. and organizations like the international media, the UN, NATO, and the EU. Available player cells change with each game, and not all countries are represented in each scenario. In some games countries will be played by Controllers.
Each player is assigned a role and a set of motivations and goals. The object of the game is to play your role well and to accomplish your assigned goals. In some cases players have conflicting goals, just like in real life. As a player you spend time negotiating with allies and enemies, making deals to gain you or your country more power, more weapons, more food, or a national chain of convienience stores. Some players will have roles which require them to set a national budget for the country they represent, in order to fund actions of the military, state, intelligence, research, and business players. Other players, both within and outside of your cell, may be working with you or against you in order to further their own goals. Your opportunities are limited only by your imagination and ambition.

Strikes me as something between a LARP, Diplomacy, and that Scavenger Hunt we did in NYC a few months back. Cool. (Also: read the quotes page.)


From Storygames for Everybody:

Candamir is one of the spin-off games from Settlers of Catan. In it, you have a character (playing piece-style). You adventure. You get and spend Xp. You fulfill quests, buy potions, fight bad guys.
It’s not exactly a roleplaying-based game, by any stretch. But still.
I can’t help but think that having a game but much like this that starts simple and slowly stages up towards roleplaying couldn’t help but be awesome.

Sounds cool… sort like Talisman or Hero Quest (the old board game.

“Release the Atomics!”

Some folks in Toronto are using Donjon to run some Space Opera, and recording the results on RandomWIki.
The game setup:

  • Rocketships have to look like ROCKETSHIPS, with sleek shapes, fins, sparklers sticking out their butts, etc.
  • Rayguns need to look like RAYGUNS
  • Flash Gordon-esque, but updates ala transhumanist stuff (Iain Banks) are also possible
  • Set in Solar System, with the caveat that every planet/moon in the solar system is not only inhabitable in some way, but also inhabited
  • Lots of planet hopping
  • First person who brings up a law of physics to say something can’t happen gets kicked out

That last rule makes me happy.

I cannot wait for Kaylee to be old enough to play this.

The Princes’ Kingdom
You are nine years old. You just had a birthday, and your brothers got you a puppy. The three of you are seeing the world from your very own boat. You are the sons of the King of Islandia!
And only you three can stop the war.
A game about children, adults, and ideals.
It’s … DitV mechanics, playing young royalty in … a kind of Earthsea golden age (and I only say ‘earthsea’ because it’s a kingdom composed entirely of islands — no other similarity).
Basic Dogs mechanics, but without the stats Heart, Acuity, Will, Body — in conflicts you start off by rolling your age in d6’s… and then you add in skills you have that make sense. When you get Fallout xp, you just pick up more Traits — ou don’t raise the skills you already have — so that your sheet quickly becomes the history of everything you’ve learned. Escalations in conflict are smaller things, more personal… dice pools are smaller… violence is … a lot more shocking and short and startling, when or if it happens.
It’s… sort of a classic YA fantasy story about growing up and making choices. It makes me feel excited to be a parent. I’ve already pre-ordered a copy (which gives me the PDF for free!), and I’m getting another one as a gift for someone else, later :).

Heroquest PDFs has PDFs of several of the more recent Heroquest/HeroWars books, including the main HQ rulebook.
Of real note is the HeroQuest Hero’s Book. This skinny little ‘intro’ to the HeroQuest rules covers all the basics of the game system and provides a number of example characters, almost ready to play — said examples are Glorantha-setting specific, but still provide good examples of how to do character’s (especially magic-using chracters) correctly. As a primer on HQ, or as the ONLY book you need to ‘get’ about 95% of the rules in the game (as long as someone ELSE already has the main HQ rulebook) it’s perfect.
And it’s a five-dollar PDF download, which is a pretty darn good deal.
If it seems likely that I’ll ever trick you into playing HeroQuest in any setting at all, I recommend this.


Story Games Community

This forum was basically created to be a midway point between RPGNet and The Forge.
I love the friendly geeky discussion on RPGNet (“What game would be best for Firefly???”). But I don’t like the constant outages, the attitude, the bickering and the screaming.
I love the directed discussion of gaming theory-as-practice and actual play, gamebuilding of The Forge, but I also want my geek friendly gaming chatter, too.
So this is basically a discussion playground for role-playing games. Here’s some ground rules:
* If you really want game building advice, go to The Forge or RPGNet. Seriously, the Forge is the workshop for that shit, and I’m not going to try to recreated that community here.
* If you see something awesome at another forum or on someone’s blog, post it here in the Links category. People can feel free to jump over to that area to discuss the topic there. Or, if you want to meta-discuss it here (as in “Why it’s being discussed over there), that’s cool too.
* No one gets banned here unless they mess with the zen.
* Actual Play: “Cool gaming moments” are fine. You don’t have to build up a huge story to tell us the one or two awesome things that happened at gaming last night.
* “Praxis!” is the theory forum. But here’s the thing: It’s discussion specifically related to creating, marketing, publishing, selling etc games. I’ll eventually put my foot down if I see too much theory not tied to practice. There’s plenty of other awesome places to discuss “theory before it hits your game or the table”.
* Political, religious, sexual, or other topics that don’t involve a game go Elsewhere.
* Swearing, taunts and personal attacks are strictly awesome, as long as they are done in jest and don’t mess with the zen here. Keep the taunts, bickering and personal attacks to a minimum: Like “Zero”. Also, we’re buddies with other forums and playgrounds.

I just… I dig it. A lot. If the Forge is too… whatever… try this place out. Start with the thread “Which D&D race would you shag?” Hi-LAAAR-ious.


Multiplayer game designer Raph Koster offers some observations on the Lifecycles of a Gamer:

In many ways, we are all heading for a Socialization Destination. Everyone gets bored of a given virtual world. They then hang out there only because it’s where their friends are. The games in these worlds are like the beer at a bar, the rides at a carnival. They are diversions, and the point for most ends up being the other people.

Something I’ve heard over and over: “if it weren’t for the people, I’d have left this game by now.”
Which is why I’m more interested in organizing regular group activities these days, I suppose: it’s things like Monday Munchies and regular task forces and events that pull together all the people I really like playing with that, for whatever of a 100 different reasons, I don’t get to see in game with the same regularity as in the past.

Random Wiki thing

Changed around the layout on the page for my City Of Characters, to two purposes:
1. Lets my just update that page with note-like updates, instead of here.
2. Page change isn’t as easy to see on all on page when reading, but is WAY easier to read in the edit screen. MUCH EASIER.

Gankin’ gankin’ gankin’…

PVP is Serious Business.
Right. Don’t gank 11 year olds, apparently. Sheesh.
Also, since folks have asked, the origin(s) of ‘gank’.
This is the version I’m most familiar with:

Gank is also used where someone takes out someone else in a PvP or PvE environment, due to an overwhelming advantage on the part of the winner. It is often used in any situation where the person being killed is at a significant disadvantage to the person killing.

Excellent question

I did a book report back in high school on the Icewind Dale trilogy.
Yeah yeah, Drizz’t — sue me.
Anyway, the whole point of the paper I wrote (and by the end of the thing, it was well-and-truly a ‘paper’ and not a report) was the nature of race and role stereotyping and the affect that has on the individual.
My teacher gave me an A, and suggested that I was, perhaps, reading more meaning into the books than the author had really put there. I asked her how that was different than any other book that anyone had ever read, and she dropped it.
My point: Dave did something very similar here, and asks really good questions — digging past what’s right for the big Marvel story of the year (an outcry for the regulation of Superheroes) and asking the hardest question of all: what would be right in the really real world.
I have more to say, but I pretty much said it over there.

Too damn funny

Via Dave: Southpark Amber trumps.
It’s kinda true, as a few people have said, that there’s nothing new under the sun to do with the Amber setting (after ‘only’ 20 years of rabid player-creation/mutilation of the setting), but sometimes I really.
Miss that game.

In honor of Jacob :)

Morbid Fact Du Jour, the February 12th entry:

Most authorities believe the character of Dracula in Bram Stoker?s novel was based upon the historical figure Vlad Tepes (pronounced tse-pesh), who intermittently ruled an area of the Balkans called Wallachia in the mid 15th century. He was also called by the names Vlad III, Vlad Dracula and Vlad the Impaler. The word Tepes stands for “impaler” and was so coined because of Vlad?s propensity to punish victims by impaling them on stakes, then displaying them publicly to frighten his enemies and to warn would-be transgressors of his strict moral code. He is credited with killing between 40,000 to 100,000 people in this fashion.

Continue reading “In honor of Jacob :)”

Unforeseen Consequences

Plague Strikes WoW:

Blizzard recently added the Zul’Gurub instance to the game, where Hakkar, the god of blood, uses a devastating disease attack on anyone who dares fight him. Seeing as how it’s a disease and most diseases are contagious, it shouldn’t be shocking when some players come back and haven’t been cured.
And that’s exactly what’s happened. Players are returning from this instance to towns with the diseases, spreading it, and Blizzard’s in a panic to keep things under control. GM’s have started to quarantine players in an effort to control the spreading, but players keep leaving the quarantine areas. Unless you’re above level 50, you more or less immediately fall over dead from the disease.
There hasn’t been a patch to stop the plague, but here’s to hoping Blizzard doesn’t actually cop out and simply eliminate the virus from the world; this is one of the reasons massively multiplayer online videogames are so cool!

I have to agree: this is pretty cool. 🙂 I love it when semi-smart programs hand you something you built that turns into something you didn’t. It’s awesome.

Risus Mystery Men

The Risus – MYSTERY MEN Website

What is Risus?
Risus is a complete FREE Role Playing Game (RPG) designed to be a “RPG Lite”. While it is essentially a Universal Comedy System, it works just as well for serious play.
What is Risus – MYSTERY MEN?
A comedy RPG campaign using the Risus rules and inspired by the 1999 movie MYSTERY MEN (which was inspired by the Bob Burden comic book).

Firefly stuff

Jamie Chambers, the creator of the Serenity RPG posts on FIREFLYFANS.NET
about the upcoming launch of the highly anticipated game at Gen Con this weekend.
I want it — if not for the system (I don’t), then just for the (inevitably wrong, compared to source material.

Critical Mass

MMORPGS and the Dunbar number

This all leads me to hypothesize that the optimal size for active group members for creative and technical groups — as opposed to exclusively survival-oriented groups — hovers somewhere between 25-80, but is best around 45-50. Anything more than this and the group has to spend too much time “grooming” to keep group cohesion, rather then focusing on the thing the people want to spend effort on in the first place — say to deliver a software product, learn a technology, promote a meme, or have fun playing a game. Anything less than this and you risk losing critical mass because you don’t have requisite variety.

Emphasis mine. Emphasized because it sounds really
Very tired of the Alliance Leadership boards today.

Feed the Wiki!

Please be advised that the link for the RSS feed for RandomWiki is now

Might as well, since I have time

Please be advised that RandomWiki will be locked vs. editing while I upgrade to 2.0.
This upgrade will allow for many lovely bells and whistles, but most notably allows for IP blocking and other nifty bits of spam-control.

Because I need *this* shit today…

RandomWiki has been vandalized.
If you grok wiki at all and understand the ‘restore’ function, I’d ask your assistance in fixing things.
Dave, you might want to check HikiWiki.

Comprehensive Guide to Rapid XP Gain/Debt Loss

City of Heroes Official Forums

Just to let you all know, I have finished revising and posting version 4.0 of my Comprehensive Guide to Rapid XP Gain/Debt Loss over on the Guides board on City of Heroes. This is my comprehensive look at powerlevelling, powerdebtclearing, and poweradventuring (non-PL play for most efficient XP gain) in all forms of which I know. I hope people will find it useful.

I’ve had cause to used the techniques for clearing debt any number of times, which is why I’m linking to it, cuz I get tired of explaining the debt-clearing tricks in game all the time.
The rest of it, I don’t know anything about.


The non-Glorantha version of Heroquest is coming, titled QuestWorlds
QuestWorlds is a poly-genre roleplaying adventure game in which players portray characters from any imaginable genre of fiction.
* Simple yet sophisticated. One system is used for ALL resolutions, whether mortal combat, intellectual debate, torrid seduction, racing spaceships or horses or giraffes, mercantile bickering, or even (depending on the scale) a worldwide nuclear war.
* Based on the popular HeroQuest roleplaying game, designed by award-winning Robin Laws, praised for its cleverness, ease of learning and fun.
* Limitless. Only the players’ imaginations limit their options.
* A story and narrative game, not slowed down by cumbersome mechanics.
QuestWorlds has FIVE GAMES IN ONE BOOK. The five games are:
1. Western. Cowboys, indians, cavalry and the Great American Wilderness.
2. Occult. Ghosts, zombies, strange dimensions and dark magical arts.
3. Super Heroes. Zap, bam and pow, with sinister plots to destroy the world.
4. Science Fiction. Aliens, space ships and strange worlds set across the universe.
5. Wuxia. Kung fu, karate and tree-leaping feats in the exotic Orient.

Your Setting in HQ

The Forge :: What is it About the HQ Rules and Bringing Out Setting?
A discussion of the recurring theme in HQ-related actually play reports about how “HQ finally let me play [cool setting x],” and why that happens.

Most games either ignore culture altogether or only take it for some minor “powerz”, like “All elves are competent with Elven Exotic Weapons as Martial Weapons” and similar stuff. This is, in a way, understandable, as it is harder to display cultural (or racial, or religious…) differences with a set of generic rules. Often, this is the skill systems “fault”, as it has a set of skill that apply to all and everyone in the game and thus have a hard time accounting for individual differences, like, dunno, a Fremens specific cultural background, for example. Of course, this can be done, for example by a “Specialisation”-system, but these often are used more for things that “are really useful” for the character. (Especially in point-buy systems.)
Heroquest allows, through keywords and player-created abilities, to display a characters cultural, religious, racial, whatever,… background without making the system needlessly complicated or making the character less “usefull”. It doesn?t punish the players for having characters that focus on their heritage.

This just reminds me of all the settings/genres I’d like to run with HQ. I’m doing my damndest to convert people.
Hell, Randy got me thinking about using HQ to run Amber — now I’ve got that bug buzzing around in the back of my head: using the Affinities rules for Amber Powers… man, it all works really, really well… might be a really good conversion to write up.

Prison pictures


These images are based on a group of about two hundred 3×4″ identification photographs made between 1914 and 1937 that I found in a drawer in the Arkansas penitentiary in the summer of 1975. The photographs of the men were loose in the drawer; the photographs of the women — all of them white — were in a small brown envelope. Most of the photographs of the men were taken inside, against a wall or a cloth; most of the photographs of the women were taken outside, near a fence, in a wicker chair.

I don’t know what I’m going to use these for… but I’m going to do something.


Well, for those of you interested in such things, you’ll remember me discussing “Forge terminology” off and on here; like a “Crunchy” game system or whatever.
Well, if you’d ever wondered what the hell I was talking about, but didn’t want to read a bunch of Forge Theory, check this out: RandomWiki – TheoryTopics.

This is a collection of theory topics, concepts, and glossary ideas in role-playing theory — in particular ideas and terminology from The Forge. You can browse by the first letter of the term using the links above.
The idea is for this to be like an encyclopedia with references. Pick a term or topic from browsing or add in a new one. Then add in links to important Forge threads relevant to that topic by putting them in the “References” list.

A glossary of all the Forgeite terms terminology from all over the intarnetweb and RPG theory, including Robin Laws’ stuff and so forth, which IMO makes it even more useful as a reference, complete with definitions and links back to the articles or discussions that coined them.
It’s awesome. What’s even more awesome is that, while it’s on RandomWiki (ostensibly ‘my’ wiki), it wasn’t my work. John Kim, having gotten a green light from me, went ahead and created the whole thing.
In one night.

Mythic Space Opera

I’ve played a lot of Star Wars. Let’s get that fact out of the way right now. I played the d6 version starting from back in the heyday when WestEndGames was on the way up and still had it’s best source books and scenarios in front of it.
I’ve played the d20 version, because, like sex, even bad Star Wars is still Star Wars, baby. (Note: much of the new trilogy redefines ‘bad Star Wars’, but I digress).
Let’s just say that that I love Star Wars, and I love playing Star Wars rpgs — the only problem being when the system just gets in the way and makes things… not good — in my case, it led to burnout on the d20 system.
It’s a fantastic, mythic backdrop when done right. (Cue another snark about the recent movies.)
Now… I’ve also, much more recently, become quite familiar with the Heroquest rules, which allows for some great, character-oriented play with a mythic focus.
So I want to take those two facts together — I’ve seen a lot of Star Wars RPG material, and I know how HQ generally plays.
Now, may I present:

Continue reading “Mythic Space Opera”

Toys. Cheap.

RPG Shop: Dungeons and Dragons Miniatures
Painted, plastic miniatures. Usually very cheap. Just the thing for picking up a dozen generic barbarian or orc warriors for which you don’t have to worry about chipping the paint. I’ve picked up a couple of these so far and the paint job is more than adequat without showing up your own personally painted work 🙂

Type. Print. Play.

Sparks: Paper Miniatures as a Font
From the same guy who brought you Risus and other cool stuff. How did I not notice this before?

Paper miniatures have always been popular. They’re light, inexpensive, and easy to use . . . but they’re fragile. If you mess up while cutting them out, you’re out of luck. And after the game is over, they’re difficult to store safely. And what if you need two dozen of a single kind? It’s no good buying two dozen sets to get it . . . And what if you want to game in a variety of scales?
Sparks are the ultimate paper miniatures: miniatures in the form of a TrueType font! You can make up your own “sheets,” with any composition you want, in any scale you want, any time you want, using no software more complicated than WordPad! Burn them, mark them, spill Coke on them, throw them away when you’re done, because you can always make more.

update on the Dibs that is Kringle in Time

A Kringle in Time contains a lot of misbehaving and adult themes and is inappropriate for family gaming unless you have a much cooler family than most. You should see some of the stuff I left out, is all I’m saying. My god I’m a bad boy. Spank me! SPANK ME!

pwned. I’ll be running this v. v. soon.

Asking questions to set up your game

Chris gives some great tips on how to get together for a new game and really tie your players’ characters into a Relationship Map in this thread. Excerpts from near the end of his post:

I think the big [goal] to [asking players questions about their characters to deepen the R-Map] is to get the players into a situation they really can’t just back out of. Yes, the players. They invent these characters and these Kickers in response to your questions and they think it’s all just sort of back-story. Suddenly they find that the entire game is about nothing but them; everything else is sort of incidental frills, in a sense. That’s what Doyce meant about GM-ing Sorcerer being zero-energy.
See, you might have in mind that all these Kickers are really about [X]. Forget that. If it works, it works, but it’s irrelevant. What matters is the characters, and putting them in situations where they have to make choices between Humanity and more apparently desirable options. They’re really tightly woven together through relationships, so that they can’t even agree that the situation sucks; instead you get,
“This sucks.”
“Yeah, that was always your problem, you’re a whiner, and that’s why you couldn’t ever get it up.”
“Oh, Lisa darling, maybe that wasn’t Dave’s problem, because you know, we have lots of fun in bed; maybe it’s your frigidity, and have you talked to a doctor about that? I just worry about you, you know.”
“Listen, bitch, just because you’re a slut who’ll screw a table leg….”

Meanwhile the city’s is in flames and your demons are ready to fight it out and you’re thinking “maybe I could just summon another demon.”
There’s some additional great observations from Scott about Chris’ “running Sorcerer and Narr by asking questions” technique over here. Highly recommended reading on how it all comes together in play:

Notice how Chris, in his post above, defines what’s happening by asking questions of the player. This is a subtle and radical shift in the focus of play. Most posts here have talked about how different Sorcerer is from other rpgs, but Chris’ post actually shows how it is different, if in just a humorous example.
Traditionally, a GM tells the player whats happening. The player functions as a receptacle of the GM’s imagination and makes a few choices, rolls a few dice. But the basic dynamic is “GM to player”. The vast majority of roleplaying is performed in this fashion with players affecting the plot only insofar as they are able to with good dice rolling, tactics or kewl powers.
Narr, at least as I’ve read it in Ron’s books (and the couple of times I’ve got it right by accident), is very different. It’s far more collaborative and the flow isn’t from GM to player but more like the GM setting the tone and overall big picture (not plot), the player setting the details, the GM working with those details and sending it back to the player, while the plot works itself out in the exchange (from my understanding, at least). The players are key collaborators in determining what the story is, where it goes and how it gets there. The story does not exist without the players. That’s a 180 degree shift from most roleplaying and your players may be butting their heads up against that.
The one key technique that I think you can take from this thread (and Chris’ post especially) is to ask the players questions. Everyone likes to answer a question. Everyone likes to help somebody else figure something out.

One of those things that you can get right in Sorcerer if you’ve been recently playing some InSpectres or Octane or Paladin or Trollbabe or Donjon or something — it’s more difficult if you’ve switching between a subtle narr-supportive system like Sorcerer or Heroquest from from a traditional system. Good stuff.

Building Dogs

Some folks on the Forge are getting ready to play Dogs in the Vineyard on IRC, and they’re conducting all their character creation session online in this thread. Very interesting, and includes an excellent summation of character creation rules, thanks to Vincent.

Happy derangement

Johnny The Homicidal Maniac : Director’s Cut

Mayhem and violence rule in this collection of issues one through seven Johnny the Homicidal Maniac, by Jhonen Vasquez (creator of Invader Zim), as well as material seen before only in Carpe Noctem magazine. Dark and disturbingly funny, JTHM follows the adventures of Johnny (you can call him Nny), who lives with a pair of styrofoam doughboys that encourage his madness, a wall that constantly needs a fresh coat of blood, and–oh, yeah–his victims in various states of torture. Join Nny as he frightens the little boy next door (Todd, known to fans of Vasquez’s work as Squee), thirsts for Cherry Brain Freezies, attempts suicide, draws Happy Noodle Boy, and tries to uncover the meaning of his homicidal existence.

Ooh… material for the Kids Sorcerer game… heh. 🙂

Coding stuff

I’ve set up a few tweaks, which amount to combining the Random Encounters blog into the RandomWiki front page, using a PmWiki plugin called x-include.
I welcome feedback on the whole thing; I like the functionality, don’t totally love the look of the interface, but think it might get the job done. Input welcome, as it’s a snap to switch back.
(For those of you who absolutely must have the other version of the blog — simply go to — that should still work just fine.


Game Dream 12: Onward, Jeeves!
In my current DnD campaign, NPC companions make little or no impression on the game — wizard’s familiars, for example, seem to come packaged with a small bag of holding that they sleep in until they’re needed for a boost to Spot rolls, and human followers are pretty much the same thing.
It’s been much different in other games: certainly, the NPCs in my Amber game were quite a bit more (inter)active, the Sorcerer game had all kinds of NPC stuff going on (and I only rarely forgot that an NPC like Yvonne was ‘there’).
I have a lot of interest in games like HeroQuest, Fate, and DitV, where relationships are part of the character’s scores in ways that dramatically affect the outcomes of all kinds of conflicts. WIth that kind of in-game benefit it’s actually in the Player’s best interest to use and integrate such characters in the game as much as possible. This gives the players more influence on the events of the game and (bonus!) helps prevent me from my inevitable NPC-forgetfulness: when you’ve got a hunter-follower who gives you bonuses in combat by backing you up, you REMEMBER that guy — when the loyalty and love you feel for your sister gives you an edge in climbing the Cliffs of Despair after her kidnappers, then she really matters to the game (which helps her matter to the story).
Rambling. Now, finished.

“Dogs” Kudos

DitV is Jonathan Tweet’s ‘Best Game of GenCon for 2004.

I almost didn’t pick Dogs because I didn’t want a game with characters that the players couldn’t respect. They sounded like thugs, Inquisitors in the American style. But it turns out that they’re not thugs. They’re righteous stalwarts and brave heroes. They root out and face down corruption with their hearts as well as their sidearms. The irony and anti-heroism I expected to find aren’t in the game.

I think what I like admire about Tweet is the broad range of his game design creds — Ars Magica and d20 3.0 on one end of the spectrum; Everway and Over the Edge on the other. I switch-hit between the crunchy near-skirmish-rules games and the oogly-googly diceless stuff as the mood catches me, and I like a game designer with that same degree of variation.

Nice Supers Campaign set up.

At the coincidentally-named Random Encounters blog.

Take 3 parts Neon Genesis Evangelion, 2 parts Incredible Hulk, 1 Part Delta Green, and a dash of Final Fantasy. Shake (don’t stir), bring to a chill, and play with Bronze Age style.

Twist and turn

The Upsidedown Map Page

It came as a surprise to me after over 20 years of seeing “normal” world maps to come across an upside down one. The most surprising thing was that I found it surprising. It is completely artificial that we have North at the top of a map.

Calendar goodness

Updated the Game Calendar software and am VERY HAPPY to report:
a) The glitchy things that’ve been happening recently when adding new events have subsided.
b) It doesn’t make Foxfire lock up anymore.


In a Gaming with Minatures thread on the Forge, Mike Holmes described a recent minis game with his three-year old son:

When attacking, Alex rolls the scattegories die (d20 with leters on each side), and, if he can correctly identify the letter, hits the creature for one point of damage.

Then he describes what happens, using a key word in the description that starts with the letter his kid rolled. Genius.

Mmm… glasses.

Librarians are SEXY: a good jumping-off point for finding a decent pix for Shannon O’Neil in the Sorcerer game, it’s also a subversive, cool call-to-arms for freedom from censorship.

Another category of annoying GM introduces the term Pixelbitching

I call it the ‘Clickable Pixel’ style of GMing, after various computer games. Basically, you’re in this Myst-like free environment, looking for the ‘clue’ that helps you free the next bit of drama or the next area of the game … which turns out to be a completely mundane and unobtrusive object approximately 5 pixels across.

For instance, in the X-Files computer game, there’s a warehouse. In the warehouse are ‘clues’. One of these ‘clues’ is a bullet lodged into a post. The only view of the bullet is exactly 2×2 pixels.

An in-game example:

Con games: Sometimes you can see there’s plot going on over the fence, you just can’t find the pixel to click on. Or, indeed the correct NPC. Con games where there are 12 NPCs to talk to and you end up having to talk to all 12 of them before you stumble onto the right one. Or worse, you NEVER talk to the right one, and you end up staring at the plot-fence the whole game.

Certainly my experience in this regard has been mostly at cons, and mostly with particularly uninspired gming of stuff written by other people for Living campaigns. It was somewhere in that period that I developed the “ask a lot of questions around town, then go back to the Inn and wait to be attacked in the night, then loot the bodies for clues” method of investigation. 9-of-10 success rate, that.

Real life reflecting in the game

What’s funny is that Dave’s Ken Osato (in my Sorcerer game) is approaching the ‘annoyance’ of his recently rescued girlfriend just like this.

More and more Japanese men and women are finding relationships too messy, tiring and potentially humiliating to bother with anymore.


For those using an RSS aggregator (*coff*FeedDemon*coff*) and want to track my game wiki stuff, plug this feed into your aggregator. That will feed all the page changes within the whole wiki.
Thanks to Dave for pointing out this wiki mod.

Link for Randy

Diceless Risus: the pretentious edition
Don’t look at me — it’s the author’s name for it.
It needs a pool mechanic added to it (cf. Nobilis) before I’d find the very static nature of the scores viable. Also, it loses the ability for scaling up by increasing the die sizes — still, it’s no worse than vanilla ADRPG as it stands.

Grade School Sorcerers

I’m gonna run this. Brace yourselves.

You know that little boy sleeping in other bed isn’t really your brother. Ever since that game of hide and seek on your birthday last week, well… he’s been different. He got locked in the closet by accident, and by the time Mom got him out, little Joey wasn’t little Joey anymore. Sure, the kid snoring softly over there looks like Joey. Your mom can’t tell the difference, but… you know. You’re not even sure he’s a kid at all- ‘least not like you. He always eats everything on his plate, and brushes his teeth before bed. He even cleaned up the room first. Mom gave him an extra cookie in his lunch yesterday too. But scariest of all, Spot won’t come near him. Spot loves Joey.

Dis not the wiki

The difference between blog and wiki and why wiki rawks.
Today I was thinking “I should put up a link to Fate RPG so I can hit it easily and quickly. I don’t really want to put it in the blog because if I do it’ll get suXord into the archives and I’ll have to go digging.”
That’s the only thing that isn’t cool with blogs — links are great, and the archives of your life are great, but nothing’s left where you put it a few days ago. Everything slowly shifts downward into the archival sarlacc (sarlaac? hmm, Star Wars spelling angst) pit.
Then, just for a second, I thought “You should just add it as a link to your Fudge page,” and I started to get down about how much of a pain in the ass that was going to be: download html, edit, save, upload, double-check.
Just for a second, it felt like the old days.
Then I remembered that I had put the Fudge page into RandomWiki and with a few easy clicks the link would be in a nice static page that didn’t get pulled into archives and would always be where I left it.
And that felt pretty damn good.
Since Scott asked for it:
Wikis in plain English
Other Wiki Resources:

Applying the Theory

There’s an old quote from Carrie Fischer, speaking to Lucas about his approach to dialogue during the filming of Star Wars: “You can read this shit, but you can’t say it.”
With that in mind, I present a good essay from M.J. Young on how to apply “Forge theories” to “real games” (specifically, designing or customizing games). It’s one of those “give it to me in context” things that folks mentioned in the last post.
Excerpts below, emphasis mine:

Specifically, I’m looking at the theory commonly known as GNS. This theory suggests that role play styles divide into Gamists who enjoy facing the challenges of play, Narrativists who enjoy great stories that involve themes or issues, and Simulationists who seek to know what another reality might be like. Periodically in those discussions [on the theory], someone suggests that the theory isn’t much use because it doesn’t tell you how to design a better game.

I would clarify that to say “Narrativists enjoy posing a question (the ‘premise’) and then answering that question through the events of the game and the actions of their characters. I don’t think theme or story is exclusively narrativist, nor do I think that the current view of the GNS model assumes that’s the case. (The only problem with this essay is that it’s a year or more behind the current view of the theory-in-practice.)

[…] it can be and often is answered that this is not really a theory about how to design games. It’s a theory about what gamers are seeking when they play, and as such has its most effective application as a diagnostic tool for play groups that seem to be internally at odds. In this context, if we have players who are trying to get different things out of the game, having some terminology and definitions by which to discuss what each is seeking can be invaluable in resolving conflict. If all GNS theory did was resolve such conflicts, it would be valuable. However, one cannot read so much as the title of that first article, System Does Matter, without absorbing the idea that game design itself is part of the problem, and therefore could be part of the solution.

I know that in reading this essay and others I started to understand problems and frustrations I’d had in the past with various play groups, so I’d agree, as far as that goes.

[…] GNS considerations are very important to the question of what you are designing. If you guide the players into designing hammers, they’re going to wind up with tools that are very good for hitting things; if you want them instead to write stories, you need to have them design pens.

And one of my favorite quotes illustrating the difference in game modes:

It might help put the entire question of resolution mechanics in perspective by imagining that a character runs, perhaps fleeing from an attacker. The gamist wants to know whether he ran fast enough. The narrativist wants to know how his running illustrated the premise. The simulationist wants to know how fast he ran — any of them might enjoy retelling the story that came out of the scene, because any style of play generates Story. Although all three are concerned about escaping the adversary, they view this in different ways.

There’s some more stuff I wanted to talk about regarding how each style approaches “character” and the sanctity of the character concept (I think Sim is the only one that really approaches the character as sancrosanct), but that’s for another time.

Game your way to riches a moderate second income.

A really interesting article about the real economy that grew up around the false economy of Everquest: Game Theories.

As Castronova stared at the [Ebay] auction listings, he recognized with a shock what he was looking at. It was a form of currency trading. Each item had a value in virtual “platinum pieces”; when it was sold on eBay, someone was paying cold hard American cash for it. That meant the platinum piece was worth something in real currency. EverQuest’s economy actually had real-world value.
He began calculating frantically. He gathered data on 616 auctions, observing how much each item sold for in U.S. dollars. When he averaged the results, he was stunned to discover that the EverQuest platinum piece was worth about one cent U.S. ? higher than the Japanese yen or the Italian lira. With that information, he could figure out how fast the EverQuest economy was growing. Since players were killing monsters or skinning bunnies every day, they were, in effect, creating wealth. Crunching more numbers, Castronova found that the average player was generating 319 platinum pieces each hour he or she was in the game ? the equivalent of $3.42 (U.S.) per hour. “That’s higher than the minimum wage in most countries,” he marvelled.
Then he performed one final analysis: The Gross National Product of EverQuest, measured by how much wealth all the players together created in a single year inside the game. It turned out to be $2,266 U.S. per capita. By World Bank rankings, that made EverQuest richer than India, Bulgaria, or China, and nearly as wealthy as Russia.
It was the seventy-seventh richest country in the world. And it didn’t even exist.

Words Mean Things

The Forge :: The Provisional Glossary — a definition of terms used on the Forge.

My goal, as I stated above, is utility for others, especially those who haven’t been involved in debating these issues for years. So bear that in mind ? it’s not supposed to represent your sophisticated understanding of controversial nuances. Evaluate it from the eyes of someone who needs it.

Given that a lot of folks that read this link will be folks who haven’t spent the last five months boning up on Forge-speak, your reaction to this glossary (especially those of you getting some of it second-hand through me) would probably be very insightful — comments appreciated and I’ll pass them along as needed.

Made me think of Sorcerer

Hitherby Dragons: Surrender (1 of 2)

“What are you?” Micah asks.
“A demon,” Thysiazo says.
“No horns,” Micah points out. “Also, not red or ugly.”
“No,” Thysiazo admits. “I’m more of an easy-on-the-eye evil.”

I have to recommend Hitherby again to folks, but will freely admit it’s not for everyone — the most surprising thing about it is that there’s a continuity and a story and something really going on there — you just have to read all of it to start to see it. I think it might be brilliant, but I can’t say for sure yet.

Introducing RandomWiki

In an effort to tech myself PmWiki through… really the only way I know how — trial and error, I’ve set up RandomWiki, which will eventually be the sole repository for my gaming-related source material that isn’t actual game-log and actual-play stuff (which I think works better on a blog).
I’m still working on getting the FireflyWiki switched over to PmWiki, but FireflyWiki will never been the sort of wiki that makes full use of PmWiki’s Groups, which is, arguably, its coolest feature. By sub-dividing all my gaming stuff up and putting it into the wiki, I now have lots of clearly-delineated Groups to screw up as I teach myself the program work with.

MmmmmOVE it, Maggots!

The Forge :: [Savage Worlds] X-Com

The aliens have been on Earth for nine months now, appearing suddenly in small groups, blowing stuff up, kidnapping people, disrupting communications, and in general working Earth up into a lather. Conventional forces are useless against them; the aliens project some kind of “fear wave” that can turn hardened soldiers into gibbering toddlers. Only X-Com, an elite international force, can meet the terrorists head-on. Hardened by the latest psychological techniques and equipped with the most advanced Japanese gear, X-Com troops are the best that Earth can put in the field. And finally, they have a chance to strike back: a garbled ham radio message from the mining town of Sparta, Colorado says that a UFO has crashed into an old mine behind the town. X-Com X-1–the first graduates of the X-Com training program–sortie to capture the UFO.

Two points:
1) X-Com was the best game ever. I wish I had a PC slow enough to run it on.
2) I would love this kind of game.

Start em young

DORK TOWER explains how to acclimate Katherine to gaming.
Then again…

K: Mommy, is that you? [points at miniature]
M: It is.
K: Is that Daddy? [points]
M: Yes.
K: Is that the monster? [points]
M: Yes.
K: You have to save Daddy before he dies, kay?
M: I’ll try, sweetie.

That is… more acclimated than she is already.


Forge discussion on Narrative play in Amber. Ron Edwards (of Sorcerer fame) has a lengthy comment in the thread that’s pretty useful.

As a grizzled Amber veteran, I suggest that your group can make the existing rules work well for their purposes (as you’ve described them), by “kicking the tires” a little. By that I mean ramping up your attention to certain rules, interpreting others a bit differently from their text, and ignoring or diminishing yet others – in other words, Drift. You’re probably doing it already anyway. Here are some notions about one way to Drift that particular rules-set.

Also, an excellent comment on the difference between fanboy-Amber and Zelazny-Amber:

Interpret the Shadow rules in terms of impact on Story Now, rather than in terms of simulating some sort of metaphysics. Instead of being a Zelazny fanboy who wants to know “what if Shadow did this,” be a Zelazny-esque author and recognize how he used Shadow-based explanations to set up conflicts and constraints. That “constraint” is especially important; throughout the stories, Shadow’s malleability was far outweighed by the limitations it laid on Corwin rather than on his opportunities. Think of how difficult it was to get the Amber-ready gunpowder, how easy it was for the True Amber to stay hidden, how much fuckin’ running around he had to do after the jewel based on time-flow differences, and how Brand stayed one step ahead of so many other characters for so long.

That really rang true for me, in that I’ve commented on a number of occasions that the reason that things like mental-contact and “locate in Shadow” get abused is because players have their character act in ways that characters in a novel are too… “polite” for.
Anyway. The sort of thing I’m linking to mainly so that other folks might see it and find it useful (y’know… those that run Amber).

Rolling drunks for xp.

These ideas on how to ‘stir up’ a classic D&D game (following the regretable encounter the original poster had with a fantasy heartbreaker game) are just priceless.

You can up the ante, of course. You have some skills, if not a lot. Go roll some drunks in an alley and see what happens. I mean, are the cops really high-level? They won’t even notice if you do it right, after all. Try hanging out in the theater district after dark; you might be able to waylay a hot actress — even an heiress if you’re lucky — and can hold her for ransom or sell her into prostitution. If you pull that off, you’ve got a little money and the organized crime syndicates know you’re an up-and-coming little group. Maybe they could use you. And if they don’t like you, they’re going to have to attack (which is fun) or else send you on a mission you can’t possibly survive (which is also fun).
I’m rambling here, but I think if all else fails, go break some laws and cause some trouble. If he just blocks you at every turn, give up and go home. If he lets you do stuff, either things have to happen or you will end up very rich, very evil, and with a burning town behind you.

Probably not the sort of thing I should be reading before reading Margie’s stuff for her Arabia game. 🙂

I recently picked up a copy of Prince Valiant, the Storytelling Game from Wizard’s Attic, based entirely on two things — its favorable comparison to the (brilliant) Adventures of the Good Knights (which I’ve already pimped) and this, the one and only internet review of the game.
It’s a good review (though annoyingly distracted by poking fun at WoD) and a good game whose basic rules could be easily ported into just about any genre.
You could even lose the coin-tossing mechanic for basic d6’s if you like. 🙂

As mentioned a few days ago…

Pokemon and…. Sorcerer.

But then I thought, aha! Why not sorcerer? Because well, when you look at Pokemon from an adult perspective, it’s all really really twisted.
There’s these kids who go around giving up everything just to become the best there is at getting little monsters to beat the hell out of each other.
And society encourages them to do so. It’s easy to lose yourself in the whole pokemon and trainer life, but should you?

Immediately made me want to get out all our old Pokemon decks from when Justin was into that and convert some of my favorites to Sorcerer demons. 🙂


Great quote from an old Forge post on Non-linear play in which the GM started the game with the last scene and then jumped 96 hours previous.

There has to be some rearrangement of displayed character traits. One character, in the final scene, claimed to want the “BIG EVIL” dead so badly he was willing to sacrifice the whole of Del Ray Diablo to accomplish it. When we flashback 96 hours, however, he has a family, a job, and is generally a nice guy (he coaches his son’s softball team).
I see it as my job to help engineer the change… and I think it is fairly obvious how I will be going about this.

Heh. Hheehehehehhehh. Heh.

“I don’t want training, I want to know about the Death Star.”

Hitherby Dragons: Applied Theology

She’s my lady. The first one in my heart. Oh, sure. She’s a wretched hive of scum and villainy. You walk in, you walk out, you’ll get blood on your shoes. Blood. Ichor. Probably weirder things than that. But it’s the place to go if you want to find out the truth. So I went to her. Mos Eisley.
“Always there are three.”
There’s a shriveled green kid. He’s standing on the bar. He’s got ears like starter flags. There’s little tufts of hair in them. He’s ranting to anyone who’ll listen. Right now, that’s me. “Always there are three,” he says. “A Father. A Son. And a Holy Ghost.”

“How could they cut the power?!?”

Via BoingBoing, Doom board game in the works.

The game itself is set to be largely modeled after id’s upcoming entry in the franchise, Doom 3, and will feature sculpted plastic miniatures of the game’s characters, board pieces for players to create their own custom maps, specialized oversized dice, and a number of different weapon types.

Sounds a heck of alot like SpaceHulk, which is probably one of my favorite games of all time.