October 2008

  • In the News: FOX pre-cancels Whedon’s Dollhouse


    Joss Whedon. Photo courtesy of RavenU on Flickr.Hot on the heels of news that Joss Whedon is re-shooting the pilot for his upcoming sci-fi/thriller series, Dollhouse, executives at FOX announced that the show has been pre-canceled.

    “We don’t anticipate that the show will appeal to a broad audience,” remarked a FOX spokesperson. “It’s just way too…’out there’ to bring in the ratings share we’ll need to compete in early 2009, so we’re pulling the plug. We’ll air three episodes out of order in January in a timeslot usually reserved for Billy Mays and Kevin Trudeau, a fourth episode will air on FSN Tennessee during the Super Bowl, and then we’ll replace it with an as-yet-untitled sitcom starring Dane Cook.”

    “[The pilot] Joss is re-shooting probably won’t even air,” the spokesperson added.

    Potential fans of the doomed series began a “Save Dollhouse” letter-writing campaign in November 2007, shortly after production was announced. FOX receives hundreds of impassioned pleas to keep the series on the air every day.

    “The response has been great,” Whedon said in a recent interview on Entertainment Insider. “I’ve been blessed with some very loyal fans.”

    When asked about rumors that most of the letters are written by one fan, Derrick Stroyer, who also continues to write similar letters pleading for the return of Firefly, another failed Whedon vehicle, the writer/director/producer/caterer replied, “Yes. Okay. A very loyal fan.”

    In the same interview, Whedon announced that he will definitely not be working on a sequel to the movie based on Dollhouse. The movie, tentatively titled Echo, will continue the storyline where the series inevitably leaves off. Echo will be in theaters on August 19, 2011. Derrick Stroyer is already in line for tickets.

    Disclaimer: I am not an entertainment news reporter. I am no more informed about the wheelings and dealings of the entertainment industry than anyone else with access to the Internet. Also, this story is a lie.

  • November: The Month of Months


    ‘Round about the last week of October, there’s usually a flurry of activity here as I announce what sort of insane challenges I’ll be embarking on in November. National Novel Writing Month (or NaNoWriMo) has topped the list for the last several years, followed by National Blog Posting Month (NaBloPoMo) and finally, a challenge of my own making: HoNoToGroABeMo, which is what we call How Not To Grow A Beard Month in these parts.

    My attempts at writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days have been largely unsuccessful. Even when I managed the word count in 2005, I abandoned the story without a resolution; my protagonist fleeing across the desert and the man in black following. 1No. Not really. This year, I’ve decided to leave the writing to those with more determination (and story ideas) than I.

    Blogging every day for a month was, all things considered, a walk in the park, especially when I combined it with daily photographic evidence of my inability to grow a proper beard. I was already planning to do NaBloPoMo again this year, but when my friend Bob unveiled the HoNoToGroABeMo website it was like combining two great tastes that taste great together. 2Chocolate and cheese. Now my genetic disinclination toward facial hair and my proclivity for aimless babble form up, becoming the Voltron of pointless, month-long pursuits! 3Form blazing beard!

    The website, if all goes well, should be operational by the end of the week, at which point anyone who wishes to join us on our mad crusade can create an account. I’m told the features will include not only a blog, but a place to post photographs of what passes for progress throughout the month. I suspect that my own attempt (futile though it is destined to be) will be chronicled both here and there, perhaps through the utilization of some manner of imported cross-posting technology.

    1 No. Not really.
    2 Chocolate and cheese.
    3 Form blazing beard!
  • Hire These Guys, Willya?


    Okay, listen up: I need a favor. A big favor. If you’re within the sound of my blog, I need you to hire J.C. Hutchins and Matthew Wayne Selznick. Before you start in with the questions, let me throw a few tidbits at you:

    1. They’re not a matched set. I’m not talking about Salt and Pepper (or even Salt ‘n’ Pepa) here. These two guys aren’t joined at the hip or anything. But they’ve got a lot in common. Like what? How’s this for starters:
      • They’re both authors. J.C. is the guy behind the kickass 7th Son trilogy, the first of which will be available in print next year. Matt is the author of the coming-of-age superhero novel, Brave Men Run: A Novel of the Sovereign Era, which is available on Amazon.com right now.
      • They’re both podcasters. I know, who isn’t these days, right? But get this: they both released their novels as free, serialized downloads on these very Intertubes before they were picked up for publication! J.C.’s trilogy sucked me in big time, and I’ve fawned about it here before. Matt’s novel hit me over the head with a Peter Gabriel-wielded Sledgehammer (ironically, one of the few iconic eighties anthems that doesn’t appear in Brave Men Run) and I was happy to add the print version to my bookshelf at home.
      • They’re both new media geniuses. Look, let me lay my cards on the table here: I have no idea what the hell a new media genius does—I’m not even sure I’ve got a grip on what new media is—but I know that these guys can make the Internet marketing wheels spin, baby. And that’s why you want to hire them: because if you don’t, someone else will, and you’ll be out in the cold with your tired old marketing strategies and your Gold Clipper. You need to do better than that, and these guys can deliver.
    2. Of course their credentials are available on the Intertubes! You were paying attention when I said “new media geniuses”, right?
    3. Why am I shilling for these guys? Well, if I haven’t already made it clear, I enjoyed the hell out of their books. These are two of the most creative guys I know, and that kind of talent shouldn’t sit idle or there will be trouble. Also, if they’re not working, they’re going to be all over the Internets, blogging and tweeting and just generally filling the tubes with whatever strikes their fancy; quite frankly, I don’t think the tubes can handle it. So, please, won’t you think of the tubes? Put these guys to work.
  • Game Night Badge courtesy of FreshBadge.comA couple of weeks ago, a recipe for Schadenfreude Pie appeared in my RSS reader. 1Google Reader, if you’re curious. Schadenfreude is a word meaning (roughly) the joy derived from the misfortune of others. When you laugh at a video clip of some dumbass taking a running leap off a shed in his backyard and almost making it to the swimming pool, that’s Schadenfreude; it’s the sort of deep, complex emotion that only a German could encapsulate in a single word and upon which only a third of the cast of Full House could build a secondary television comedy empire. 2Sorry, Mary-Kate and Ashley, this doesn’t mean you.

    The recipe for Schadenfreude Pie, however, comes from neither a German nor a Saget, 3…nor a Coulier. but from a science fiction author: John Scalzi. It was in Mr. Scalzi’s recent retrospective of his ten-year-old blog, Whatever, that the recipe came to my attention. I’ll leave it to Mr. Scalzi to explain how and why the seemingly disparate notions of Schadenfreude and pie—the latter of which has, apart from an incident involving blackbirds and the de-probosciseration of an unfortunate young woman, never been associated with misery in any form—came together in his recipe. Regardless of its storied origin, I was intrigued by the ingredients of Schadenfreude pie, and so decided to attempt to bake one for my gaming friends.

    The pies were still in the oven when Rachel and the two Davids arrived for the evening’s activities, but were soon removed to the cooling racks while we played Rorschach, a party game in which players examine a series of inkblots and answer such questions as “Which is the cuddliest?” and “Which would keep you up at night?”. Points are scored by selecting the same inkblots as your opponents (thereby, one presumes, successfully delving into the murky depths of their psyches) or by selecting an inkblot that was chosen by none of your opponents (thereby establishing yourself as the freaky, unbalanced misfit). After several rounds of the game, it was agreed that the outcome seemed to be a tie more often than not, though we were not able to agree upon whether this indicated a sloppy game mechanic or a series of disturbing psychological trends amongst our gaming peers.

    Rorschach was followed by The Great Dalmuti, a card game I’ve owned for probably 10 years or more but had never played, 4I also own—and have played, though only once—Dilbert’s Corporate Shuffle, which is essentially a repackaging of The Great Dalmuti aimed at appealing to the corporate cubicle drone crowd. and the arrival of Gus. The idea behind The Great Dalmuti is pretty straightforward: 5Don’t ask me what the idea behind Gus is; I’m as mystified as you. you’re better than all these schmucks. The goal is to rid yourself of all the cards in your hand and be declared the “Greater Dalmuti” for the next hand. Unlike most card games, which end after a winner is declared, play in The Great Dalmuti continues until the ultimate loser is determined. The second player to play all of his or her cards is the “Lesser Dalmuti”, while the last two players are the “Lesser Peon” and “Greater Peon” (and forced to pay taxes to their respective Dalmutis at the beginning of the next hand).

    The game proved to be a lot of fun, but I think next time we’ll set forth some rules as to what, beside taxes, the Dalmutis can expect from the Peons. We really didn’t play up the whole caste system aspect, but I’ve heard of groups wherein the Greater Dalmuti may command the Greater Peon to fetch drinks and such, which sounds like it could add another level of fun.

    Schadenfreude Pie: Sliced

    Sometime during The Great Dalmuti the pie was served. Unfortunately, it soon became very evident that I had managed to burn the graham cracker crust. The pie was rather troublesome to cut (a jackhammer would have worked well) but got generally favorable reviews. It is incredibly rich, as one might expect considering that the primary ingredients are dark corn syrup, molasses and dark brown sugar, but not too terribly overpowering provided it is eaten in moderation. 6The second pie, which I didn’t eat until the following day, turned out better than the first. Mr. Scalzi’s suggestion that the pie be eaten with a large glass of cold milk was spot on.

    To finish out the evening (and to keep from slipping into a diabetic coma), we played Carcassonne, a tile game that Laura and I enjoy but had never played with more than three people. As it turns out, six people is a good number. The game was very close: only a single point separated the victor from his nearest opponent, and the overall point spread was somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen points.

    I was pretty pleased with how the evening went. We introduced a new gamer to the group, crammed a lot of play into about three hours and enjoyed some dark, sweet pie without having to feel karmically guilty afterward.

    1 Google Reader, if you’re curious.
    2 Sorry, Mary-Kate and Ashley, this doesn’t mean you.
    3 …nor a Coulier.
    4 I also own—and have played, though only once—Dilbert’s Corporate Shuffle, which is essentially a repackaging of The Great Dalmuti aimed at appealing to the corporate cubicle drone crowd.
    5 Don’t ask me what the idea behind Gus is; I’m as mystified as you.
    6 The second pie, which I didn’t eat until the following day, turned out better than the first.
  • Con on the Cob 2008: Day 3 – Tomb


    Tomb is a board game in which each player recruits a party of stalwart adventurers from the Troll’s Head Inn and sends them to explore crypts in The Goldenaxe Catacombs. The objective: kill monsters and get loot. I happened upon an impromptu demo run by Todd Rooks on Saturday afternoon on the third day of Con on the Cob.

    The game starts with players populating the crypts of The Goldenaxe Catacombs with a wide variety of Monsters, Traps and Treasure (Crypt cards, which are placed face down in the crypts). There are 16 crypts in the basic game, 1The flip side of the game board is The Tomb of the Overseers, a more advanced game featuring 22 crypts and more advanced rules. each of which can contain a specific number of Crypt cards; crypts close to the Inn can hold only 1 card each, while those in the far corners of The Goldenaxe Catacombs hold 5 cards.

    After the crypts have been populated, players spend one or more turns in the Inn recruiting characters and (optionally) drawing Inn cards. There are four character classes: Cleric, Fighter, Rogue and Wizard. The majority of the 84 characters appear to be single-class, but a number combine one or more classes; such was the case with Ichaerus, a Cleric/Fighter/Wizard I recruited early in the game. Each character has four stats and a special ability. The stats—Attack, Skill, Magic and Holiness—are each defined by a number of Green, Blue and Red dice. Here are the stats for Grim, the Cleric I recruited on my first turn:

      Green Blue Red
    Attack 3 1  
    Holiness   3 1

    When Grim makes an Attack, he rolls 3 Green dice and 1 Blue die; when he makes a Holiness check, it is with 3 Blue dice and 1 red one. All dice in Tomb are 10-sided, and the color of a die indicates its chance to roll a success: 2Each die face is either blank or decorated with an axe; axes indicate success. Green dice have only a 30% success rate, Blue dice have a 50% success rate, and Red dice have a 70% success rate. Grim has a fairly puny Attack, which is the domain of the Fighter class; his Skill (the primary stat of the Rogue class) and Magic (important to the Wizard class) are both nonexistent, and his Holiness (as one might expect from a Cleric) isn’t too shabby.

    Grim also grants each character in the Party an additional Blue die to all of their rolls for each Wound they have. This was an ability that I completely failed to remember during the game, which undoubtedly made things a bit more difficult for Ichaerus, The Iron Duke (a Fighter), Ricart Darpor (a Rogue) and Sir Aleron D’Ilchant (another Fighter). These five characters comprised my party for much of the game, but I managed to stumble on a bit of luck early on and my party was pretty stable. The three gentlemen I was playing with weren’t so fortunate, and as a result the four of us managed to get at least 16 recruited characters killed over the course of about two hours.

    A game of Tomb in progress.


    As long as a player has at least one character in his party (maximum party size is five), he may enter the tomb and begin exploring crypts. When a party enters a crypt, a symbol in the entrance indicates which player becomes the Crypt Master. The Crypt Master picks up all of the cards in the crypt, announces whether there are any Traps to disarm, and controls any Monsters. In the event that the crypt contains only Treasure cards, they are immediately given to the player whose party entered the crypt.

    Each Trap, Monster and Treasure card has an XP (experience point) value, occasionally zero; successfully disarmed Traps and defeated Monsters go into a players Bank, and Treasure looted from crypts can also be banked, though players have the option of equipping their characters with any Treasure they loot. Banked XP is (for the most part) safe; equipped Treasure, on the other hand, is lost (along with its XP) if the character to which it is attached is killed. Equipped Treasure may also be pickpocketed by Rogues from other parties, though the consequences of failing a pickpocket attempt can be severe (up to and including the death of the pickpocketer).

    During his turn, the actions available to a player depend on where his party is currently located. In the Inn, players may recruit additional characters to the party or draw two Inn cards. There are four types of Inn cards: Items, Spells, Prayers and Tactics. To be eligible to draw Spell or Prayer cards, at least one character in the party must have dice in Magic or Holiness, respectively. 3Additionally, a player must discard all of his Spell cards if his last character with dice in Magic dies. Ditto for Prayer cards and Holiness. There is no hand limit, but Inn cards have no XP value, so eventually the party will have to venture out of the Inn. In the Tomb, a party may move, pickpocket, or enter a crypt (normally, a party may not move and enter a crypt in the same turn).

    Battling monsters in the crypt.

    Apart from the standard Inn and Tomb actions, it is also possible to cast Spells or Prayers or use Tactics, provided the card allows it. One card, for example, allowed me to immediately return to the Inn and recruit two new characters; assuming I was in the Tomb, this would normally take three turns: one turn to return to the Inn (which can be accomplished in a single turn, regardless of distance), a second turn to recruit the first character and a third turn to recruit the second character.

    While some Spells, Prayers and Tactics are used in place of a normal turn, others can be used to react to something another player has just done. These cards can be played outside of a player’s turn, but do not otherwise affect the turn order. In one case, after an opponent’s Rogue had failed to pickpocket my Rogue (and, thus, was killed), I used a React to immediately recruit him into my party.

    When the final crypt has been opened and all Crypt cards have been removed from the Tomb, the game is over and the player with the most XP wins.

    Despite a very lucky start, the ability to move around the Tomb more than twice as fast as most of the other players and some sneaky tactics that made it difficult for any party but my own to enter the final crypt, I still managed to fumble and lose the game by 10 points. My downfall was brought about by two things: first, a monster that forced every character in my party to make a Skill, Magic or Holiness check before battle began; a failed roll meant death, and four of my five characters either failed the check or were killed in the ensuing battle. The second component in my defeat was a decision to retrieve two monsters from my XP Bank to fight for me in the final battle. The monsters were worth a total of 13 XP and both were killed in the course of battle. That thirteen point loss more than accounted for my ten point deficit at the end of the game.

    Had my convention budget been larger by about fifty dollars, I would have done what one of the other players at the table did: run immediately to the dealer room and purchase a copy of Tomb. The game was a lot of fun and, despite a minor rules snafu, ran very smoothly. I’d play it again in a heartbeat, and I’m very curious about The Tomb of the Overseers side of the board as well as the campaign play Todd mentioned.

    1 The flip side of the game board is The Tomb of the Overseers, a more advanced game featuring 22 crypts and more advanced rules.
    2 Each die face is either blank or decorated with an axe; axes indicate success.
    3 Additionally, a player must discard all of his Spell cards if his last character with dice in Magic dies. Ditto for Prayer cards and Holiness.
  • Con on the Cob 2008: Day 4 – WEGS


    Con on the CobThe final day of Con on the Cob began with WEGS, The Wickedly Errant Game System. In terms of game philosophy, 1What did I just say? “Game philosophy”? Sweet Gygax, what the hell is wrong with me? this game was about as far removed from the previous night’s Marvel SAGA game as it’s possible to get. Whereas “The Quiet Room” was all about character development and letting the players create the story, “WEGS 101: Old Skool” was…well, old school; all mechanics and very little roleplaying. 2Very very little. As in none.

    Character generation in WEGS takes all of ten minutes: roll your stats, select a race and class, calculate your derived stats and that’s it; you’re done. The character sheet is single-sided and there’s no equipment to buy; if you’re a warrior, you’ve got a melee weapon, if you’re a ranger you’ve got a ranged weapon and so on.

    After my character sheet was filled out, I selected a miniature figure (there was nothing appropriate to my elven ranger, so I selected what appeared to be a large gnoll with a bow). “Okay,” said Larry Wickman, creator of WEGS, “This is the castle, and the monsters will be coming through this door.”

    “What’s my motivation?” I asked.

    Wickman grinned. “This is the castle,” he said, “and the monsters will be coming through this door.”

    WEGS: Storming (out of) the Castle.


    The game started as a single-player demo, but by the time I was ready to place my figure on the map I had been joined by three others: a mage, a warrior and a sage. The first two were played by experienced “Wegshogs”, the last by another newbie.

    From the first round, I found myself harassed by a ranger in the castle’s eastern tower (assuming we were assaulting from the south), and we traded shots back and forth for much of the game until I was able to put him down and turn my bow toward the array of baddies that had poured out of the castle gate.

    WEGS combines a percentile-based challenge system with “spoints” that can be used to boost the odds of success. This adds a distinct game-of-chance (read: gambling) flavor to the game, which Wickman enhanced by moderating with a style that was part old school game master and part Las Vegas craps dealer. As each player’s turn to act came around, Larry rattled off a rapid-fire stream of options, odds and percentages, cajoling players to use their poker chip “spoints” to turn that 63% chance of success to 73%, 83%, 93% or even 103%. 3Technically, even spending points to boost a stat to 103% doesn’t guarantee success, as there’s always a 4% chance for any action to fail, just as there’s always at 3% chance that … Continue reading

    Once we found our groove, the gameplay was quick and brutal. Heroes and monsters exchanged blows (or spells, or arrows) back and forth in rapid succession, but soon we found ourselves up to our eyeballs in teeth and claws. At the beginning of the game (when it looked as though I’d be the only player) Larry had asked me whether I’d like to play Mild, Medium or Nasty. An hour later I discovered that Nasty does, indeed, live up to its name. Heroes are very tough to kill in WEGS, but these monsters were out to demonstrate that “tough to kill” and “impossible to kill” are two very different things. Our elf warrior was on the brink of death, burning Phew! points to stay in the game, 4This stat allows a character who has lost all of his or her wound points to narrowly escape death. Phew! our mage had seen the ugly end of a Hill Giant’s club and had only two wound points remaining between her and a pine box, and our ranger could probably have hired himself out as a professional pincushion. Even our wily little gnobbit sage had taken a few hits. Things looked pretty grim.

    But we were heroes, and we had a few cards up our sleeves. Or at the very least in our hands. WEGS gives each “Arktype” an optional set of skill cards that allow special feats like “Blitz” and “Snap Shot”. Playing these cards could do anything from lower an opponent’s Invulnerability to raising a hero’s Ruggedness, and in the end it was those modifiers that saved our collective bacon, along with some clever spellcasting and a sage who was very generous with his spoints. 5The sage class is similar to the classic cleric archetype. He’s not exactly a healer, but he’s at his best when he’s supporting other characters, whether it be donating from his … Continue reading

    It was a close contest, but in the end the monsters just couldn’t wring that last bit of life from the heroes. The game, which was essentially a single combat encounter, had lasted nearly two hours. That’s two hours of dice-rolling, number-crunching, hack and slash fun. Just the sort of thing to provide a counterpoint to the four and a half hour story game from the night before.

    WEGS isn’t going to win any accolades from the story gaming crowd, but it’s not meant to; it is an unapologetic return to the early days of pen and paper adventures, when the “role” in “role-playing game” was often spelled R-O-L-L.

    1 What did I just say? “Game philosophy”? Sweet Gygax, what the hell is wrong with me?
    2 Very very little. As in none.
    3 Technically, even spending points to boost a stat to 103% doesn’t guarantee success, as there’s always a 4% chance for any action to fail, just as there’s always at 3% chance that an action will succeed, regardless of how impossible the odds may appear; Wickman doesn’t believe in automatic failure or success.
    4 This stat allows a character who has lost all of his or her wound points to narrowly escape death. Phew!
    5 The sage class is similar to the classic cleric archetype. He’s not exactly a healer, but he’s at his best when he’s supporting other characters, whether it be donating from his pool of spoints or providing mystical buffs.
  • Con on the Cob 2008: Day 3 – Marvel SAGA


    Con on the CobThere was a time, roughly eleven years ago, when I lived only a few blocks from Waldenbooks. Every week or so, I’d walk to the bookstore and spend a chunk of my hard-earned salary on…pretty much anything that caught my attention. One thing that definitely caught my attention was a new role-playing system from TSR called SAGA, which eschewed the familiar polyhedral dice in favor of something called a “Fate Deck”. This mechanic purported to give players more direct control over whether their actions would succeed or fail by replacing the element of chance with a hand of cards from which a player could choose a suit and value appropriate to the level of effort they wished to expend in order to succeed.

    To give the new system a little breathing room, TSR set Dragonlance SAGA about 30 years into the future of their existing AD&D campaign setting and called it Fifth Age (though the Age of Mortals, which the source material claims is the Fifth Age, is actually the Sixth Age; it’s all very confusing). I bought the Dragonlance SAGA setting and every supplement I could find, and when TSR released the Marvel Super Heroes Adventure Game under the SAGA rules, I bought that, too.

    Unfortunately, I’m better at collecting roleplaying game system than I am at actually playing them. I read through all of the source materials and then, like so many other systems I’ve purchased over the years, the Dragonlance and Marvel Super Heroes SAGA sets were tucked away in a box in the crawlspace.

    SAGA never really caught on with the gaming populace—it seemed that people really liked rolling those dice—and I assumed that the system was a relic of a bygone age. I never dreamed that anyone might actually be using it.

    Enter Kevin Kreiner.

    Marvel SAGA

    Kevin, as it turns out, loves the SAGA system. Just not the way TSR tried to implement it. The Fate Deck mechanic, according to Kevin, doesn’t work well with a fantasy setting. Nor does it work well in the standard Marvel Universe, where gamma-irradiated doctors and high-tech–battlesuit-wearing millionaire playboys and aliens imbued with the Power Cosmic all run (or fly, or jump) around through the same cities. But a superhero universe where all powers have a single point of origin; well that, Kevin says, is a different story altogether.

    Kevin ran his version of a Marvel SAGA game Friday night at Con on the Cob, and—no offense to anyone I’ve gamed with in the past—it was the single coolest roleplaying game experience I have ever had. Ever.

    Here is the description of Kevin’s game from the Con on the Cob guide:

    The Quiet Room
    Marvel SAGA
    Carlysle Institute
    They said you were crazy. They sent you here. But you’re not mad, no, not at all. You KNOW things. You can DO things they cannot explain. You’ve got to get out of here. But THEY have their ways of keeping you. THEY have the Quiet Room.

    Kevin came to the game with three things: a legal pad (which he borrowed from someone right before he sat at the table), a pen and a Marvel SAGA Fate Deck. No notes. No pre-generated characters. No rulebooks. No maps. No miniatures. Just paper, a pen, and a Fate Deck. And from that, with the help of six people around a big square table, Kevin created a fantastic role-playing game.

    After a brief explanation of what each of the four suits in the Fate Deck meant and how cards could be played, Kevin dealt each player six cards and had us assign one or more cards to our Intellect, Strength, Agility and Willpower. The only restrictions were that we couldn’t give any trait a value greater than 10 and that we had to leave at least one card unassigned. After jotting down our selections, Kevin collected the cards, shuffled the deck, dealt three cards to each player, and began the game.

    I don’t know if what happened in the next four and a half hours was a story game in the strictest sense—in my experience there is no game master in most story games—but we sure did tell one hell of a cool story, and for the first time in my roleplaying experience, the game mechanic didn’t interfere with the narrative at all. Once we figured out how to use the cards and realized the potential they contained beyond merely indicating a number and a color, the game really opened up to us. We were playing super-powered characters, but at no time did I have to record the specifics of my powers on a character sheet or worry if the power “worked” in a particular way; it seemed like imagination and game mechanics simply flowed together naturally.

    The story Kevin ran is a journey of discovery; an awakening for (in our case) six heroes. Kevin told us afterward that he has been running this particular scenario for several years and it is different every time. Clearly, Kevin brought something to the table beyond just a pen, a legal pad and a deck of cards; Kevin also brought experience, a quick wit, and a fertile imagination. 

    Listening to Kevin explain how he derived certain elements of the story was like living the last few minutes of The Usual Suspects. I felt like Agent Kujan, looking around and seeing all of the pieces fall into place. Some of it confirmed my suspicions, but much of it hit me out of left field. 

    I’m being purposely vague about the details of our adventure because the last thing I want to do is spoil it for someone who might have an opportunity to run through Kevin’s scenario at a future con. If you’re the type of gamer who likes to know the probability that an attack is going to hit based on the dice you’re rolling, or if you need numbers to define every aspect of your character, this isn’t the game for you. But if you’re not afraid to put the dice down, set the graph paper aside and get involved in a story, then seek out Kevin’s game. You’ll be glad you did.

  • Con on the CobI didn’t plan for Friday to be my shortest day at Con on the Cob, but a bunch of bacteria hit me with a vicious gut punch and my plans changed; instead of staying until the wee hours of Saturday morning, I was on the road home at 6:30pm.

    Unfortunately, leaving early meant missing missing performances by The FuMP artists Positive Attitude, 1I’m linking to MySpace now? I feel dirty. Power Salad 2Confession time: Kraftwerk owes Power Salad a debt of gratitude. The Power Salad song “WarCraftWorld“, a spoof of Kraftwerk’s “Computerworld”, is so well done that it … Continue reading and Worm Quartet. 3Hey, parents! Check out “C is for Lettuce” for some handy child-rearing tips. Fortunately, I was treated to a Dementia Circle hosted by Rob Balder the night before. 4In my head I refer to this as “An Intimate Evening with Rob Balder and Friends”. In attendance: the great Luke Ski, Chris Mezzolesta (at most half of Power Salad), Alchav (at least half of Soggy Potato Chips), several con attendees and a bottle of Coconut Jack.

    Before my untimely departure, I managed to:

    1. Shaintar: Immortal Legends by Sean Patrick FannonPlay in Sean Patrick Fannon’s Shaintar: Immortal Legends game. The session, entitled “A Legend of Your Own”, was created on the fly using the Modular Adventure Creation System (M.A.C.S.), which defines essential elements of the upcoming story through a tarot-like card layout. Dispatched to a small southern mining town to investigate a potentially illegal local governance change, our party found the local populace under the watchful (and stern) eye of a mercenary band. After an intense battle involving a showdown between our ogre and their orc/ogre hybrid and the unexpected arrival and subsequent nullification of a warrior-mage, the party learned that the administrator of the silver mine had been abducted (along with his family) and were being transported to the nearest hive of scum and villainy. Horses and heroics followed, leading to a final showdown that extended the game beyond its alotted four-hour time slot, but ultimately resulted in free and grateful dwarves, a beaten and bruised party of adventurers and a slew of dead bad guys.
    2. Buy more dice. Yes. Because I needed them.
    3. Hear CRAP perform. Perhaps my irony sensor was on the fritz due to a headache and mounting stomach problems, but this did not rank as the highlight of my day.

    1 I’m linking to MySpace now? I feel dirty.
    2 Confession time: Kraftwerk owes Power Salad a debt of gratitude. The Power Salad song “WarCraftWorld“, a spoof of Kraftwerk’s “Computerworld”, is so well done that it gave me an intense craving for some old school electronica and I wound up buying Kraftwerk’s 1981 album, Computer World.
    3 Hey, parents! Check out “C is for Lettuce” for some handy child-rearing tips.
    4 In my head I refer to this as “An Intimate Evening with Rob Balder and Friends”.
  • Con on the Cob 2008: Day 1 (Thursday)


    Con on the CobThis is my first year attending Con on the Cob without a press badge, so naturally a made the rookie mistake of not pre-registering, which would have saved me ten bucks. If there’s a lesson to be learned, leave it to me to learn it the hard way.

    After completing registration and taking a quick tour through the marketplace (many of the vendors were still setting up their booths), I gravitated toward the gaming rooms, where I found a game of Savage Worlds Necropolis, a flight combat game called Blitz Jager, and an introductory Dungeons & Dragons 4th Edition game titled Flames of Initiation run by none other than Gus, our Game Night™ GM.

    There was a spot open at Gus’ table, but I wanted to attend the Evolution of a Podcast seminar at 7:00, so I opted to merely observe as the four mercenaries set about their tale of danger and…well, mostly danger.

    At 7:00, I wandered over to the seminar, which was presented by Sorg and Lunchbox from the Wrestling Mayhem Show. Despite a rather small audience, the presenters were very enthusiastic and energetic, recounting the tale of how their show evolved from a weekly streaming audio show to a weekly streaming video show and podcast.

    At 8:00 I returned to the gaming rooms to find Gus and his party still adventuring and several other games beginning, including the card game Chez Geek (a Game Night™ favorite), the storytelling game Scheherezade, and what appeared to be a pick-up game of The Savage World of Solomon Kane.

    Unless I wander into a pick-up game tonight, I don’t think I’ll be getting my game on until tomorrow. I’ve signed up for A Legend of Your Own, a Shaintar: Immortal Legends adventure run by Sean Patrick Fannon (who I interviewed about Shaintar at Con on the Cob last year).

  • Con on the Cob 2008: T Minus 1 Day


    Con on the CobLong-suffering readers of this blog 1Why are you still reading this drivel? will undoubtedly recall that November is typically a busy time in these parts. November of 2007 was filled to the brim with novel-writing, blog-posting and beard-growing. To top it all off, there was Con on the Cob, four days of gaming and geeky fun in Akron, Ohio. 2Not to mention interviews with cool people like Larry Elmore, Sean Patrick Fannon and Brannon Hollingsworth.

    Oh, how things change in the space of a eleven months. For starters, I’ve decided to give National Novel Writing Month a pass this year. I’ll still be doing daily blog posts and growing what passes for a beard around here, but I just don’t feel like starting another novel that’s just going to fizzle out somewhere around the middle of the month.

    The other big change is Con on the Cob. Convention organizer Andy Hopp moved the event up a month, just because I asked him to. 3Untrue! He also moved to a larger venue in Hudson, Ohio, which is considerably closer to the International House of Johnson. Thanks to the new schedule, I won’t have to worry about facial hair or compelling protagonists while I’m trying to get my geek on; I’ll be able to focus all of my energies on the con, which starts tomorrow.

    Tomorrow? Yikes! Where’s my dice bag?

    1 Why are you still reading this drivel?
    2 Not to mention interviews with cool people like Larry Elmore, Sean Patrick Fannon and Brannon Hollingsworth.
    3 Untrue!