Tuesday, December 08, 2009

Another Interview : Dice Tower

Mary Prasad from Boardgamenews.com interviewed me while we were at Board Game Geek con and the MP3 is posted at dicetower.com

My voice is kinda sexy, I think.




Tuesday, December 01, 2009

Thunderstone Board Game

If you didn't know, the new upcoming release from AEG — Thunderstone — is my development. Designed by Mike Elliot (w/ art by Jason Engle), Thunderstone is a big new release from Alderac. Taking some of the game logic from the ever-popular Dominion, Thunderstone turns the deck-building genre into the also ever-popular dungeon crawl.
In Thunderstone, players build a deck of Heroes to go into the dungeon and kill bad guys, earn XP, level up their characters, and attach bigger and bigger weapons.
But before this starts to turn into an advertisement, I wanted to talk about the design and development process of this game. Because that was really fun and since I'm working on the expansion now, I just needed to share it to someone (I don't care if you're not listening).

Also, the solo rules are up on our website now, I think. Check it out.

More news when I have it.


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Monsters Attack USA...

... but take an extra week to get here.

Come in Tokyo! Come in Tokyo!


Thursday, November 26, 2009

L5R Campaign : The Plot

Okay. We're one session away from the end. So, I think I can tell everyone what's going on.

Two years ago, Otomo Ryogo married a Crane woman (Doji Akore) in secret, despite the disapproval of both families. After the passage of time (irrelevant), the secrecy began to tear him apart and Ryogo-sama took his daisho and his name and traveled West, believing he could achieve glory in the Shadowlands by defeating a monster — any monster — and returning with some kind of trophy (yes, he is a confused little noble with no concept of what the Shadowlands truly is).

Some research uncovered tales of an oni that could shape itself into anything. Believing this to be a great threat to the Empire, Otomo Ryogo made the monster's defeat his mission. More research revealed a temple on the east edge of the Shinomen forest where wayward monks studied arcane lore. Visiting the monastery, he approached the leader of the order and asked for their help in

a. disguising his appearance
b. branding the otomo mon to his arm
c. securing the power he needed to defeat the oni

Not understanding the true nature of the temple (they were bloodspeakers afterall), Ryogo woke several days later, branded and disoriented. He also found that a large portion of his tongue was removed to satisfy some sick ritual of the temple monks. But in Ryogo-sama's addled thought-process, this was a small price to pay for the power he was "given."

Unbeknown to the Otomo, however, his soul was how inextricably linked to Jigoku and the taint of maho. Rather than give him the power to destroy the oni, they made him a vessel of unquenchable rage, unable to ascend into the celestial heavens alongside his most honorable ancestors. In a twisted joke, they also took enough of his tongue, so he could never speak of it to anyone.

Trudging into the Ox lands and finally into the blasted Kuni plains, Otomo Ryogo hunted the beast he sought... or whatever he would find…

Months later, disoriented and devoid of his noble bearing — he lost his daisho — Ryogo stumbled into a remote Unicorn village on the edge of the Empire. Believing himself possessed and tainted, he sought jade to cure himself (again, naive). Seeking the aid of two ronin, Otomo Ryogo offered what little wealth he still had.

This would be the final mistake Ryogo would make.

During the transaction, the ronin used a painful and exotic poison that would slowly erode his mind and eventually his nervous system. Otomo Ryogo would die a horrible death 12 hours later in the middle of a rice paddy on the edge of a Unicorn farm, while the two ronin made off with his armor, wakizashi, and scant remaining zeni.

Enter the PCs
On the edge of Rokugan, a noble's body is discovered, picked clean by the elements and discovered by an unmotivated and unsavory Unicorn Magistrate (Shinjo Hanri). Reporting the death at his convenience, it would be six weeks before the PCs would arrive to find the body and a few scant details about what brought this unknown Otomo was doing so far from the heart of the Empire.

How would five lowly Jade Legionnaires piece together the scattered details of this random and inexplicable murder? And why is it that the Crane already know of it?

The plot thickens…

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Board Game Geek Con

Brent Keith and I will be at the convention all weekend. BGG Con is in Irving or Dallas, at the Westin/Airport thing. Never been before. Directions on the site are pretty shoddy, unless the process of landing and finding the Westin is that easy.

Nonetheless, I'm excited to be showing off Thunderstone, the Adventurers, Infinite City, and a few other games Brent and I developed this year.

Look for me at the AEG booth if you're going.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

L5R CCG Art : Teaser

I really can't sleep and I don't feel like typing up too much, so here's some art for an upcoming L5R CCG set that I art directed (yes, I'm back). I assume that I can tease you with this and someone is just going to have to shut me down if they don't like it.

Art by Andy Hepworth. This is certainly one of the best looking pieces art and his work has skyrocketed since we started working together on a regular basis (we have a project coming, check your local news).

Thursday, November 12, 2009

L5R RPG Campaign : The Cast

Presently, I am running a Jade Magistrates campaign, where the five players are all "elite" samurai, working to subdue or otherwise cover-up nastiness that takes place in the empire. Shadowlands-related rumors, heinous murders, and superstitions all fall under their pervue. Presently, they are wrapped up in a couple of plots — the most important of them being a plot about a dead Otomo found on the edge of the Unicorn lands.

Because no one in the game has a good (or memorable) character name, I will merely list everyone by Player name and Clan/Family.

Aaron is the defacto leader, with a higher status that everyone else. His character is a Yoritomo courtier (weird, I know) and married to a Miya who objects heavily to their marriage. She openly detests his presence in her home and maintains her own wing of the estate.

Collin is playing an Akodo Strategist. He loves sake and is presently involved in a pretty dark story about his spirit being "fractured" after a horrible ritual.

James is playing a Moto Bushi completely devoid of tact. His viewpoint on bushido is always refreshing and eye-opening. He has taken a teenage peasant under his wing as a groom for his horse and armor. However, recently the young man (Juni) spoke up inappropriately and was sent home to his mother to learn his place.

Jason is playing a Bayushi Scout with limited political skill and a family struggling to reassert itself in court.

Weston is playing a Kitsuki Investigator with his own eta attendent. Although last session he was very tired, Weston's character is the only one asking important questions that typical samurai would never ask.

Story-wise, the characters are in a deep-deep pit of trouble. And when I can, I will post updates of their progress.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

L5R RPG Campaign

I've been running an L5R Campaign for the group (six of us total now), and while it's been moving slow, I think the player-based style is perfect for L5R. In fact, I intend a post soon about how L5R can be a STORY GAME.

In the mean time, the players are embroiled in a "murder mystery" and they've all come to take very different Points of View on what has exactly happened.

I'd rather wait to post what's going on, until the players reach a milestone in the story, since some of them read this blog.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Attention Game Designers

AEG is looking for innovative new designs for a line of board games releasing in 2010 and 2011. The games are set in a renaissance city, and the mechanics and theme of the individual designs can explore various aspects of life in the city, (mercantilism, politics, crime, war, etc.) From board, card, or other games we are not limiting the type of games we are looking at. As far as play style or experience it could include any style of play from resource management, economics, area control, and more. Euro-style and American nothing is off the table as long as it is fun. Innovation is a bonus!

If you will be attending Essen and think you have a game that fits please come visit the AEG booth 9-70 and ask for Todd Rowland or Mark Wootton.

If you will not be attending but would like to submit a prototype to AEG please e-mail customerservice@alderac.com and we will get you a game submission form right away.
AEG is also looking at other less specific games for our 2011 and 2012 schedule. Again the only limiting factor is that it is fun. We look forward to meeting you and playing your games.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Fear the Boot Interview

jim pinto appears courtesy of Capital Records.


Monday, September 14, 2009


Hey Everyone. I've been really sick since GENCON, so I'm behind on everything. Our board game division is making headway in the industry. And soon I'll be able to share some cool news about forthcoming projects.

RPG Earth will continue soon.

Thanks for your patience.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

Labor Day Weekend : Gateway

I always alert people that I'll be at the local convention (LAX Radisson), but no one ever shows up to playtest and/or hang with us.


Forget you, this time.


In all seriousness, I hope to have four games to show off. Finger's crossed.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Aug/Sept 2009

Gencon nearly killed me. I got sick coming back and now, two weeks later, I'm still not feeling well.

"Damn you working from home and not being exposed to germs often enough."

That said, I'm buried with work on Infinite City and Thunderstone. After that, I have to get a few new board game designs into playtest and then share them at Gateway 2009.

So... all really bad excuses for not posting, but I throw myself on your humble mercy. Both of you.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

GenCon 2009

I'll be leaving at 7am on Wednesday to fly to Gencon. I'll be working the AEG booth the entire time, so feel free to visit. I'll be the guy who makes it look easy.

Tuesday, August 04, 2009

D&D : My Love-Hate Affair

I'm about to say something apocryphal. Something that gamers never live down. But I'm going to say it and deal with the consequences.

I resent all of my years of playing D&D.

Let that digest.

Okay... feeling better yet?


I'll give you a moment.



And now let me explain.

Being trapped somewhere between a liberal education and a jaded world view, my desire to game stems from a much different place than most. I have no interest in reliving the Lord of the Rings books, I hate The Princess Bride, Monty Python stopped being funny when everyone started quoting it, and Conan was just… okay.

All four of those statements would have me strung up at Gencon, if uttered aloud. And for the author of the WLD to publish them publically, that's a big dose of what the hell!?!?

Now. Let me copy something from the intro of the Ultimate Toolbox…
I can remember my fascination with charts and tables going back to high school gaming. Even before that I had a love affair with baseball statistics and numbers. Heck, I used to read encyclopedia entries for fun. When I saw the potential for a random name generator in my fantasy roleplaying (at the age of 12), I didn’t let my lack of understanding about dipthongs and bilabial tones stop me from making the world’s worst graph of syllables, consonants, and vowels.

My fascination with charts died when I got to college where I was writing stories, rather than building complex game worlds. Certainly they would always be my mistress, as some of my past designs and campaigns would suggest, but I never loved them with the same enthusiasm... only turning to them before a game, never during.

All of that changed when I started working on the 7th Sea and Legend of the Five Rings roleplaying games. All of a sudden, I found myself buying reference books again, pouring over foreign language dictionaries, and letting myself get inspired by something as simple as a song title or lyric. Inspiration was everywhere and once again I was a sponge, soaking up the data that would be used for great adventures.

This book is a culmination of years of not just gaming, but the inspiration for that gaming—both my side of the table as well as Jeff’s and Dawn’s. This book is packed with stuff. I wish there was more, to be honest.
Now. This is all a lot of disclaimer nonsense. Let me get to the point of my post.

D&D is not the game for me and never has been. It took me over 20 years to understand this. Instead of seeking out gamers that were like me (they don't exist anyway, but whatever… that's another post), I kept trying to fit other gamers into my play style. And in order to game with anyone in the realms of sorcery and magically hoopie-do, I needed to use the tool everyone else knew… D&D.

But D&D never felt right. I don't care about keeping track of arrows. Grell's don't make any sense. I don't really think watching someone roll a 1d20 is fun. Why are we going to another tavern? Keeping track of attack bonuses from 17 different +1 items is not a story to me. Being forced to wear armor when I'm not a knight is lame. I'm sorry.

The game mechanics of D&D always came before the logic of a fantasy setting or the interest of a good story. D&D placed limits on creativity by forcing me to always go on the adventure that was always mapped out for me. [Sandbox games weren't a term yet, but I was already running them.] I never could put a finger on it, but D&D didn't fill the void that needed filling.... hmmm.... there's a better way to write that.

And while Vampire was a great idea, everyone that played it near me was waaaay too into it. You know what that means.

It would be years before Luke Crane would write Burning Wheel or Dogs in the Vineyard would scorch a path across the gaming frontier. The 80s and 90s were unkind to creative-types, but heavily favored gamers who loved "crunchy numbers." GURPS, anything FASA, Rolemaster, Palladium, the list goes on.

I had the pleasure of gaming with my good friend Lenny (among others) from 1995 to 2005, telling some fantastic stories in that time. Looking back, we played a lot of D&D, when we should have been playing Barony, or Good Guys Finish Last, or Psychosis, or Lost Souls, or Whispering Vault or Kult or a bevy of other off-broadway games that always placed story and character at the apex of the game… not initiative, move-equivalent actions, and Health checks.

God. What a waste.

I really don't have a point here. I'm sorry. I just wish I could go back and time and get all those hours of D&D back and use them for good… instead of mediocrity.

If you're enjoying D&D. Great. But it's not for me. Never was. And I wish I'd known better… or someone had said something to me. Man. Now the Tomb of Horrors is even lamer.

ASIDE: While I was first writing this (months ago), Dave Arneson passed away. And I owe so much to the fact that he inspired the first nuggets of what it is that I'm talking about here. Let me be clear that I love what has been done for this hobby. But I spent a lot of my "hobby time" trying to make this square peg fit into my round hole… wait… that's not how I want to say that… damn it. Erase. Erase.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

RPG Antigua and Barbuda

Antigua and Barbuda are a pair of islands in the Lesser Antilles Archipelago of the Caribbean.

Despite it's high levels of tourism, the islands is best known for its sugar windmills, due to the extensive sugar plantations on the islands. Historically, Antigua is another microcosm of the slave trade in the Caribbean and colonial expansion. Antigua fits best into game campaigns that aren't necessary "squeaky clean" fantasy that's been sanitized from issues of Hegemony, slavery, subjugation, and genocide (there were Indogenous people there until 1100 — the Arahawks, who were displaced by the Caribs).

This is another short post. I'm not sure there's much I can say about any island in this chain, but I will do my homework on each one. I promise.

Friday, July 31, 2009

How Do I Play D&D

If you don't mind a laymen mocking your hobby, he's an old article about D&D.


Monday, July 27, 2009

RPG Angola

There really is no such thing as sub-saharan African nations before 1950 or so. Until the French and British draw imaginary lines in the ground. All of Africa is disparate tribes of varying size... with the Ashanti and Zulu best known among Westerners.


I'm going to make a deal with everyone right now. When I'm done with all of the nations, I will come back and write up what little I know about Africa (and try to do some research before then).

Until then, I will just post each nation, with some disclaimer text, like...

The Angolan Civil War was fought from 1975 to 1991 (although formally 2002) after the Angolans won their freedom from Portugal. I wonder if this is the last hold out of the Imperialist age? Does this beat out the Falkland Islands? 500,000 people died.

Khoisa and Bantu are the primary languages.

The Angolan Navy has only 3,000 men and women.

The country actually has a rabies epidemic.

According to Wikipedia:
Teachers tend to be underpaid, inadequately trained, and overworked (sometimes teaching two or three shifts a day). Teachers also reportedly demand payment or bribes directly from their students.
From the US State Department Website
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A passport and visa are required and must be obtained in advance. An International Certificate of Vaccination is required. Visitors should allow several weeks for the processing of their visa application. Angola does not issue airport visas. Persons arriving without visas are subject to arrest or exclusion. Travelers may also encounter delays if they do not have at least one completely blank visa page in their passports for entry stamps. As of November 1, 2007, Angola no longer requires travelers to have an exit visa. Travelers whose international immunization cards do not show inoculations against yellow fever within the past ten years may be subject to exclusion, on-the-spot vaccination, and/or heavy fines. Visitors remaining in Angola beyond their authorized visa duration are subject to fines and arrest. It is illegal to attempt to carry local currency out of Angola and persons found attempting to carry local currency out of Angola are subject to having this currency confiscated by customs officers. Current information on entry requirements may be obtained from the Embassy of Angola at 2100-2108 16th Street NW, Washington, DC, tel. (202) 785-1156, fax (202) 785-1258.
That's a friendly country.


CRIME: Crime is a serious problem throughout Angola. While most violent crime occurs between Angolans, foreigners have occasionally been attacked as well. Street crime is a regular occurrence in Luanda. The most common crimes are pick-pocketing, purse-snatching, vehicle theft, and vehicle break-ins. Armed muggings, robberies, and carjacking involving foreigners are not frequent but do occur. Americans are advised to avoid Roque Santeiro and Rocha Pinto, and to only travel the “Serpentine Road” in front of the U.S. Embassy by car. In general, movement around Luanda is safer by day than by night. Touring after dark should be avoided. Police and military officials are sometimes undisciplined, but their authority should not be challenged. Air travelers arriving in Luanda are strongly advised to arrange reliable and secure ground transportation in advance; there is no regular taxi service. American citizens are advised to avoid the use of the public transportation known as “candongueiros” or “taxistas”; these multi-passenger vans are largely unregulated and often dangerous.

Check out the Ultimate Toolbox for Eastern, Southern, and Western African names.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Twilight 2000

Westen joined the group and the twilight team last night. He's playing an Irish Medic/Chaplain.

The team has also reached a critical moment in their attempt to escape Poland. Nearing the city of Weiland, the team has reached a small contingent of Russian soldiers repairing the road and bridges near the Warta River, along with a garrison of soldiers inside the village.

We only got to play for three hours, because of timing, but the entire game was spent trying to figure out how to repair the jeep they have and/or steal a Russian jeep. They are dangerously low on fuel, food, and morale. They are out of MRE, only have a few potatoes left, and four cans of peaches remain in their stores. The Land Rover has bald tires, and is out of fuel, with a small crack in the fuel tank, which is soldered now... but another hard bump is going to crack it open again.

The team is in bad shape, less than 30km from Kepno — a city where they believe Americans are hiding out — low on supplies, tired, and deep into several plot threads. They just don't realize it.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

RPG Andorra

To be honest, I know very little about Andorra.

I know they have low tax rates and a long life-expectancy. The population is less than 100,000. Um. They speak Catalan?!? Cripes. I'm floundering here.

From the Government's Website:
Andorra is the last independent survivor of the March states, a number of buffer states created by Charlemagne to keep the Muslim Moors from advancing into Christian France. Tradition holds that Charlemagne granted a charter to the Andorran people in return for their fighting the Moors. In the 800s, Charlemagne's grandson, Charles the Bald, made Count of Urgell overlord of Andorra. A descendant of the count later gave the lands to the diocese of Urgell, headed by Bishop of Seu d'Urgell.

In the 11th century, fearing military action by neighboring lords, the bishop placed himself under the protection of the Lord of Caboet, a Spanish nobleman. Later, the Count of Foix, a French noble, became heir to Lord Caboet through marriage, and a dispute arose between the French Count and the Spanish bishop over Andorra.

In 1278, the conflict was resolved by the signing of a pareage, which provided that Andorra's sovereignty be shared between the Count of Foix and the Bishop of Seu d'Urgell of Spain. The pareage, a feudal institution recognizing the principle of equality of rights shared by two rulers, gave the small state its territory and political form.

Over the years, the title was passed between French and Spanish rule until, in the reign of the French King Henry IV, an edict in 1607 established the head of the French state and the Bishop of Urgell as co-princes of Andorra.
Not being a master of middle ages politics — not that I wouldn't mind knowing more — the storyteller in me thinks there's more story here than culture.

The Website also says the country is 1/2 the size of New York City.

Seriously. I've got nothing more to write. This is a nation filled with Catalan, French, Portuguese, Spanish, in addition to the native Andorrans… all descendants of Spanish and French I'm sure. Fantasy games are filled with these kinds of countries. If I were going to use this country in my game, I would set up a buffer kingdom, with a bishop/prince as the new ruler of this very small "Duchy" with all of the headaches of forming a new nations, while still dealing with an invasion force (Moors or otherwise). PCs get knighted after proving their worth and are encouraged to recruit more soldiers to defend the "Kingdom."

Good? Can I go now?

Andorra Names

Okay. Just do some research on French, Spanish, and Catalan names... or just wait until I post those nations.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

RPG Algeria

Before we can talk about Algeria, we must take a moment to talk about the difference between Arabs, Persians, and North Africans. Even though these countries share a religion and a language (Arabic), they are not all the same. In fact, to say that Arabs and Persians are the same is similar to saying French and English are the same.

And they are not.

Algeria is one of the largest nations in Africa, but unfortunately, most of it is desert. Useless desert.

Historically, Algeria was the home to Berbers (we'll get them later) and then Carthaginians who pushed their way in during the Punic Wars. Romans and Vandals have also been involved in the history of Algeria, but we really need to pinpoint an era of the country to do it justice, so I'd like to approach Algeria in this manner.

First, because most Middle Eastern and African nations today have boundaries that have little to match their historical cousins, I can't always explore the minutia of cultures like Mahgreb, Numidia, and the dozens of Berber tribes. I can only explore these ideas as far as time will allow. This blog is free, after all.

Secondly, there's a lot of research people can do on their own. I'm mostly working from my own knowledge of these nations, with some wikipedia help when I get stuck. North Africa is not my strong suit, but I am still fascinated by it. If I get something wrong, don't hesitate to correct me.

Gaming Algeria
As a fantasy nation, Algeria would have a long history of Berber influence and culture. In fact, even during times of occupation, the Berber culture and faith changed very little. That is until the Arab conquest, when the Berbers converted to Islam.

For roleplaying opportunity, I think this is an excellent time period to examine.

Imagine a culture, dominating a region as large as an area the size of the Gibraltor to the Nile, slowly subsumed by an invading force over 60 years, while converting to the invading faith — and not by force. Imagine two cultures, at their peeks, colliding and melding, to form a society that still survives to this day. [Culturally, modern Algeria is not very different than it was 1400 years ago.]

Now. Imagine that Berber land cut off from other portions of the Berber lands. To the far east, the Berbers quickly turn their back on the old culture, but to the west, their is a staunch need to adhere to language, customs, and traditions. In fact, this cultural "purity" would lead to the revolts in the mid-8th century to the notions of Berber slaves. Although, this revolt did not happen in Algeria, it is relevant to a discussion of the culture.

Culture and Character
"Berbers" as a sub-race of humans in a fantasy game would definitely show signs of high WIS and cultural acceptance. Berbers are tribal, semi-nomadic, and subsistence farmers. Tribes are small, and unified with so much variation in cultural rites from one tribe to the next, GMs could really develop anything they wanted here. Predominately patriarchal, some tribes actually allowed women to make decisions and be equal to men.

The people are expert weavers, producing fantastic tapastries. Traditionally, Berbers built small, functional cities, relying on their own work rather than the production of others (as would be typical of a Western Fantasy setting). Scholars and artisans only developed after the Islamic invasion of the 7th and 8th century.

From a roleplaying point of view, Berbers are a fantastic culture of study because of how long they remained constant. Without outside influence, Algeria never changes.

Recent History
Algerians, Iranians, and Turks have been nominated (over the years) by Rand McNally as the friendliest people on earth to travelers... which feels contrary to the negative view Muslim nations are attributed by the media. In a roleplaying context, this means a nation where people help foreigners, greet other nations, and in general do not make war, but rather extend and exchange culture.

Berbers are also studied for their genetics, since strains of Berbers and Maghreb DNA has been traced back 50,000 years. Hardly relevant to this post, but I read about it in the waiting for at the dentist's office.

Algerian and Berber Names
Female: Aicha, Asma, Assia, Basma, Fawzia, Hayat, Imane, Ismahane, Mariyam, Meryem, Mouna, Nadjet, Najiya, Naouel, Narimane, Nejma, Rachida, Rayane, Samia, Shada, Sihem, Sonia, Soraya, Souad, Soulaf, Yasmine
Male: Bakri, Bassam, Bilai, Farid, Fouad, Gabir, Hassan, Hatim, Khalil, Lounes, Mashaal, Qais, Reda, Said, Samir, Sofiane, Talal, Yassin, Yanis

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Polycon XP

Someone is going to have to explain to me why no game convention has ever undertaken the idea of handing out XP to attendees and making those XP mean something... seems like an obvious leap in logic. Just slap it on the badge.
However, today's post is about the POLYCON experience. Polycon is a small, university-sponsered convention in San Luis Obispo, California. It's a once a year thing, middle of the summer, and it's about as relaxed and slow as I've ever seen a gaming convention.

Seriously. These people were on quayludes or something.

Let's begin with the trip up. A four-hour trip up the 101 became a six-hour trip thanks to 4th of july-related traffic and bottlenecks in Santa Barbara. Add in a young drive (not me) who likes to text and surf the internet while driving and you have a very "unrelaxing" six-hour drive to SLO.

During the course of the next 42 hours of convention (yes, the con ends at 2pm on Sunday... what?) I played a couple of board games, tested my board game twice, ran a LARP, and watched a drunken idiot ruin one of the best Paranoia games ever devised. We also got in some Apples to Apples, with gambling (I lost $8).

I did play Small World on Sunday before the 2.5 hour auction. I also played DON with Tom Jolly and plaid $26 for two cokes and three sliders. Mmmmmm.

The trip home was a chore, and I won't go into that.

My ultimate review of the con is that people in SLO are used to gaming together all the time, so a CONVENTION isn't special to them and therefore the time spent at the convention isn't as important as it would be to someone who loves going to conventions.

Considering the 12 hours to travel time to get to a convention that lasts only 48 hours (that includes sleep time), I don't suspect I'll be going back. But if you live close to the convention, I would recommend attending at least once. The auction was awesome and the energy is really great. Very relaxing group.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Gaming Night

One of the players couldn't make it last night, so the remaining four of us played a few board games.

Don. A bidding game by Queen's Game. I think I've talked about this game before. While RA is the king of bidding games, this one is a very close heir to the throne. A lot of people don't like it because once you're behind you stay behind, but I think if all the players know that, bidding becomes more aggressive.

God Dice. We've played this one quite a bit before. It's a nice distraction of a gladitorial game. It's kind of like Yahtzee with violence. I actually hate to admit that I like it, considering how simple it is. My biggest complaint is the component quality. Someone spent good money on art and graphics, but not on typesetting, dice, or dice symbols. I can imagine how this happened, because I know the nature of deadlines in the industry... but it's still kind of a bummer. I'm also confused why they ordered a separate piece for the cover. With six expertly painted characters inside the box, the cover could have been a gorgeous collage.

Shadows over Camelot. Two of the players had never played before. And because I demo games like I learn them (by just digging in and playing), there might have been some confusion. However, we finished a four-player game in one hour... an unheard of feat. We didn't play with a traitor, since it was their first game, but we'll rectify that next time.

10 Days in the USA. Everyone knows this game. A quick little rummy-style geography game. I won. And rather quickly, I might add.

We stopped playing at 1130pm, but talked for another hour before going home. And Jason said he had to work.... whatever.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

RPG Albania

Albanian Warrior
by Stepan Feodorovich Kolesnikov

Albania represents one of many Balkan states. Since Raavnia is based so heavily on the Balkans (especially Yugoslavia and the Magyars), I can't see talking about it too much here. Rest assured, the best use for Albania in a fantasy game would be as the crossroads between warring nations, as a staging area for another war, as an enemy/ally of a Turkish-style nation, or as a fledgling nation, trying to catch up culturally and technologically with the rest of the world.

It's ancient name is Shqipëri.

Albanians are known for being free-thinking and multiculturalism. Despite the west's impression of Albania, it is one of the most progressive nations on earth. The life-expectancy is pretty high too. It's low population ensures a high quality of life for everyone as well. Albanians went a long time without a written language, indicating that they found other ways to communicate (using other nation's languages in both education and commerce).

Historically, Albanians were devote Catholics, but today most do not practice religion. Again, I recommend the Cerul religion from my earlier Raavnia posts if you intend to use Albanians in your fantasy or middle ages games.

Albanian PCs
Albanians receive a WIS bonus, I presume… or Education if your game system allows for such a thing. They also live a little longer than most.

Albanian Names
Female: Adelina, Besjana, Bora, Diellza, Edona, Fatime, Gezime, Kujtime, Megi, Odeta, Rozafa, Sanije, Suela, Valmira, Vjollca
Male: Afrim, Azem, Besim, Egzon, Fatos, Fitim, Gezim, Ibish, Kostandin, Leka, Lulëzim, Pirro, Rinor, Skender, Sokol, Tariq, Uran, Valdrin, Xhoi

Monday, June 29, 2009

RPG Afghanistan

Artwork stolen from the web.
Could not identify artist.

I think there was a d20 book about modern Afghanistan, but I'd rather talk about the cultural heritage of this tribal and war-torn nation.

First off, most Afghani do not consider themselves part of a nation, but rather a tribe. Most don't even call themselves Afghani as this is just a translation of the name of a single tribe, most prominent at the time. Before 1747, the nation did not exist, and the tribal land was merely a road between east and west trade.

It is during this era, the Durrani Empire, that I consider Afghanistan (literally Afghan place) to be the best for fantasy gaming (although it is argueable that Turkish invasions and the Shahi Kings are also noteable time periods to game in). Taking away the technological cortex of the time, the civil unrest and social change that followed the assassination of the Khan and the start of tribal unification, the people of Afghanistan are fascinating to use as a model for human behavior in a fantasy world.

I don't want to get to far into this, because otherwise I'm writing a free sourcebook, but gaming in this environment (or a game world inspired by this environment), is about the various tribes, clans, and regional disputes. Thematically, a campaign set in Afghanistan would cover the typical fantasy tropes (lots of caves after all), with the added bonus of neighboring nations (who don't have to be human) trapsing through the land to conduct trade. Add in tribal hostility and PC agendas, and you've got the ingredients for a tumultuous campaign.

My personal taste is to do Afghani Dwarves at war with one another.

The people of the region predate Mohammed, Buddhism, Zorastrians, and the settling of the Indus Valley. They once possessed high levels of literacy and education. The range of religions, cultures, and teachings was immense. However, once Islam arrives, everything else is thrown out and Afghanistan's diversity begins to wane. Since the Afghani are mostly Sunni (a more conservative interpretation of Islam), they believe anyone can become Iman, which leaves room for PC clerics to advance far in the faith, by displaying a true understanding of the word.

If the Afghani in your game are "Humans," then humans should be broken up into sub-races or tribes, that each have their own subtle, modifications. For instance, one tribe has low-light vision, another has +5 ft. of movement, another can track really well, and another gets +1 Charisma (dealing with travelers and traders a lot). The list is so long, I couldn't possibly cover it all, but I remember a BLACKMOOR book that covered this stuff fairly well. Something about Horseriding and all the tribes.

Afghani as Neighbors
If the Afghani are not the focus of the campaign, they become a neighboring nation with conflicting ties to the PCs. Each tribe would have different trade concessions, cultural standards, and levels of diplomacy.

Afghani as Enemies
Afghani maintain tribal loyalty above all things, are quick to war, and remember blood debts for generations. They are proud, which is another word for stubborn. Their land has always been difficult to take and hold by invaders, because Afghani are tenacious warriors. Surrendering is not part of their vocabulary (it took Alexander five times as long to take the region as it did to take Persia).

Afghani Names
Female: Farishta, Gzifa, Hidi, Khadija, Muna, Uzuri
Male: Ajani, Ahmad, Hafizullah, Sindo, Yasir, Zemar

Racial Stereotypes

I've always wanted to do a book that explores all the great civilizations of the world at their "peak" and discusses how to roleplay these various cultures. The book (if done for a d20 product) would also include game system notes.


As the weeks progress, I'm going to try to post some ideas I have (coherent or otherwise) on every culture I can think of.

If I miss something, or you want to see it explored here, drop me a line.

Game Updates

If you head over to my portfolio (knightimestudios), you can see some of the games I've been doing packaging and development on.

Can't show everything, yet. But this is a nice large update.

Also, alderac.com has some updates on other games.

Despite the bad placeholder text, the new web design looks great.


Thursday, June 25, 2009

PolyCon, 4th of July

I will be at PolyCon in SLO the weekend of July 4. I'll be playtesting a few games, running a LARP, and in general hanging out with some stoner-slackers from the Central Coast.

Seriously, though. I have three board game designs to show off and do final run throughs on. Hope to see some people there.

And after GENCON, I hope to have about 100 more things to talk about. Sorry it's been so slow lately.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Podcast with Board Game Babylon

Post 68 is Eric Burgess and I talking about games during the GAMEX 2009 convention. This is about 1 or 2 in the morning, when we did this, so I'm sure I was a little liberal with my feedback.



Saturday, June 06, 2009

George's Children Available on Amazon

I have about 10-20 books available on Amazon (some with or without my name on them). So it's not really a big deal to be noticed by them. But, this new pilot program at LULU (who I self-publish GC through), now has George's Children available on Amazon, for about the same price, I think.

Anyway. That's pretty cool.


Saturday, May 30, 2009

Twilight 2000

Started a new campaign for the group. Since no one has played the original, we are going through the first edition boxed set, starting with Escape from Kalisz (although I have them escaping from Lodz instead). They've headed south (I let them choose) and are dealing with all sorts of issues related to "no food and fuel."

Everyone made soldiers in the British army, so it's been interesting to see the AUSSIE search and rescue Sergeant (Aaron) running the show. Colin is a Cavalry Scout (with a knack for overcomplicating everything) and Jason is Intelligence, versed in six languages, I think.

Session one was short, so I'll be combining one and two into one report in my next blog post.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Update : Gaming and Such

This weekend is Strategicon, Gamex at the Sheraton (one time only at that hotel) at LAX.

I will be playtesting a few games at the show — my designs in fact — with some of my friends. If you're going to be at the show, let me know. We can play/schedule a time for you (the reader) to game with us.

I ordered a copy of WIN PLACE and SHOW from ebay and it just arrived today. Near perfect condition, considering it's over 30 years old.

If you've never played it and are even remotely interested in horses, I highly recommend it. One of the best board games ever made.

Still holds up, unlike it's cousin Circus Maximus, which fails to do what it's supposed to do.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Ultimate Toolbox PDF is coming

While researching FINNISH names to fix one of the charts in the book, I came upon this...
ILMARINEN: Finnish name derived from the element ilma, meaning "air." In mythology, this is the name of a sky god.

ILMATAR: Finnish unisex name, derived from the word ilma, meaning "air." In mythology, this is the name of an androgynous virgin deity of the air.

JOUKAHAINEN: Finnish myth name of the rival of Väinämöinen, possibly meaning "great, large."

LEMMINKÄINEN: Finnish myth name of a hero of the Kalevala, a sorcerer or magician said to be able to "sing the sand into pearls." The meaning of the name is unknown but it is probably related to the name Lempi, meaning "love."

TŠERNOBOG: Finnish form of Slavic Crnobog, meaning "black god." In Slavic mythology, this is the name of a god of evil and darkness, the counterpart of Belobog ("white god").

VÄINÄMÖINEN: Finnish myth name of a magician and hero of the Kalevala, who is challenged by the youth Joukahainen. The name means "wide and slow-flowing river."
These sound like great villain/hero names for your fantasy adventures (insert weird music). Enjoy.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

WWII Monopoly?

Although I would barely classify Monopoly as a game, I think this news article is interesting enough to gamers to merit inclusion on the site.


Also, check out a board game called Skedaddle or Escape from Colditz, depending on what you can find.


Sunday, April 26, 2009

Word of the Day

What were the chances…

Word of the Day for Thursday, April 23, 2009

paladin \PAL-uh-din\, noun:

1. A knight-errant; a distinguished champion of a medieval king or prince; as, the paladins of Charlemagne.
2. A champion of a cause.

Once in power, though, Clinton stumbled repeatedly over obstacles created by the schizoid campaign he had conducted, in which he had cast himself simultaneously as the champion of a more conservative Democratic credo and as a paladin of the party's traditional activism.
-- Robert Shogan, The Fate of the Union

Even Columbia University economist Jagdisch Baghwati, the paladin of free trade, calls for controls on capital flow.
-- "Terrors in the Sun", The Nation, June 29, 1998

Matisse, paladin of modernism, is a long way from us now.
-- Robert Hughes, "The Color of Genius", Time, September 28, 1992

. . .the celebrated but distrusted paladin of imperialism and the romantic conception of life, the swashbuckling militarist, the vehement orator and journalist, the most public of public personalities in a world dedicated to the cultivation of private virtues, the Chancellor of the Exchequer of the Conservative Government then in power, Mr. Winston Churchill.
-- Isaiah Berlin, "Mr. Churchill", The Atlantic, September 1949

Paladin derives from Late Latin palatinus, "an officer of the palace," from Latin palatium, "royal residence, palace," from Palatium, one of the seven hills of Rome, on which Augustus had his residence.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Dogs in the Vineyard : Red Rock

Red Rock lies between one and two weeks south of Bridal Falls. An exclusive settlement of faithful, it spans over ten square miles of dry, harsh land. When the dogs arrive, it is fall and the harvest is coming in… shy of expectations.

Seven or eight months ago, Steward Peter passed on. His son, Seth, was expected to take over the position, but quickly the townsfolk determined they could govern themselves without a steward. Without a steward, the church was locked up, and the people expected to “manage” their families according to the word. Brothers Jackson and Levi rose to the highest ranks of the town, openly displaying their strength. Brother Seth (expecting to be steward) has been cuckolded by Jackson. Sister Ruth holds private readings of the book of life with women in the community.

The people believe themselves capable of self-control and governance, rejecting the notion of a steward. Seth believed himself the “next in line,” with or without the sanction of Bridal Falls. Sister Ruth now reads to some of the women who need direction in households devoid of faithful leadership.

The weak are generally ignored. The elderly have nothing to offer, spending their days sitting in vacant wonder at the conditions of the settlement. Seth’s wife has left him for Jackson. Seth, without children, works tirelessly to provide for himself. The townsfolk generally disrespect him (some children openly throw rotten fruit at him when he pulls his cart through town).

General pride and selfishness — no one specific sin stands out as a great transgression
Laziness — some children do not work and most elderly are expected to step aside
Temptation — some have started playing games like checkers during working hours and others imbibe coffee

The demons have subtlety planted the seeds of discord through prideful action. Seth’s quick ascension to steward was firmly rejected by stronger members of the flock, fomenting a healthy dose of ego into some settlement members.

We can govern ourselves. We are righteous and divine. No sin shall deter us from our faith.

“Iron sharpens iron.” Only the strong deserve to be considered divine in the eyes of the King of Life.

Sister Ruth reads with some of the women. In addition, Jackson and Levi carry weapons openly in the streets as a demonstration of their “alpha” status. The two consider strength a virtue and equate bullish behavior with strength.

There is no priesthood any longer, as such, everyone has strayed from the path, even those who continue to live justly.

In the face of the “might makes right” ideals of Jackson and Levi, mediocrity has taken ahold of the settlement. Those who have what they need, grow content, and overlook those in need.

Children openly mock Seth and Jackson makes sure to put Seth in his place whenever possible. Humiliation and contempt are the order of the day. Many people see that Seth is nothing more than a cuckold now and few have sympathy for what has happened to him. If something isn’t done, Seth will either be killed or he will hang himself out of desperation.

The people want a fair appointment of a steward. If possible, the punishment of those have turned so far from the faith.

The demons want the people of Red Rock to fall further and further from the teachings, every so slowly… so that none notice their complete disregard for one another.

The demons want the dogs to place Seth in charge of the settlement. In a few months time, he will be dead or infirm and things will return to normal.

Eventually Seth would die — either through suicide or murder. Gluttony and slovenliness would overcome the town. In another year, it would hardly recognize a settlement of the faithful.

Brother Jackson is the true leader of the community. He walks with a natural swagger and openly displays a pistol in his belt. He is a natural for the position, with Brother Levi acting as his second. Levi is less natural in the role of a leader and mimics much of Jackson’s behavior.

Brother Jackson — who already has two wives — has taken on Seth’s ex-wife into his home. While they are not officially married, enough townsfolk have turned a blind eye as for it to not matter.

Brother Levi treats his wife like property, sometimes going as far as slapping her in front of others (although this is rare).

Sister Ruth holds private vigils in her home. People know of this, but convince themselves that it’s not happening.

Seth is openly disrespected by over half the congregation.

Adah visits with Sister Ruth for readings and is considered her most trusted “student.” Her husband (Bartlby) is blissfully unaware that there is anything amiss in the town at all.

Brother Issac and Sister Mary (and their two children) stand as two of the beacons in the community. They have not been taken in by any of the malingering or false worship. Sadly, they have done little to stop it, either. Issac sees an obligation to his family first and the community second.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

There Can Be Only One, huh?

There is no arguing that gamers are fascinated with Scottish culture. Irish and Welsh are a far second and the English aren't even interesting to the English (with the exception of Arthur, who is argueably both Celtic and French). Every gamer looks for any excuse to remind the people around him that he is 1/18th Scottish and his family tartan is Raspberry Scone and Lemon Drop Vodka (or whatever colors he makes up, because no one challenges that nonsense).

But. Here's the question. When did it start? When did gamers become so obsessed with Scottish culture. Because it's not in D&D. Not initially anyway. Was it Highlander? Were we all growing pubes in 1985 at just the right time for Connor MacCloud to come along and be just "Northman" enough to itch our gamer-gene enough for everyone to be fascinated with this otherwise small portion of the world's geography?

Or is just that rampaging highlanders in kilts and big beards are going to be cool, even if Christopher Lambert's accent makes little to no sense?

Note: I love the original movie and hate everything else after it. I'm not a purist, I just think it's all stupid. So, I'm not going after Highlander to make fun of it. Rather, I'd like to know why people are so damn interested in pretending to be Scottish and not for instance… Bulgarian.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Industry Gamers

I've been designing and writing in the industry since 1996, when I started on Shadis magazine. Come GENCON, that will be 13 years of work.

Crap. That long?

In that time, I've worked with only a small percentage of the people I'd really like to do projects with. And some of the people I HAVE worked with, I'd like to work with again. So, in no particular order (other than alphabetical), is a list of people I'd love to do something with. Anything really.

Drew Baker. I think I bug Drew once a month to do something together. He's so damn lazy.
Wolfgang Baur. I think Wolfgang's present book line series is absolutely brilliant. I'd kill to do the graphics on one.
Jon Hodgson. We already did George's Children together, but Jon and I get along so well, there are about 20 games we could develop together with his art range.
Michael Kaluta. Comic book, game, whatever. Anything he wanted, really.
James Lowder. Technically doing something now, but I'd rather do a book series of some kind.
Craig Maher. See my notes on Drew Baker.
Raven J. Mimura. Raven and I were supposed to do a card game together years ago. He's among my favorite people and my favorite artists. Damn we'd make a good team as the leads on a vampire game.
Jason Morningstar. One of the most talented designers in the industry.
William O'Connor. One of my best friends. I miss you, man.
Chris Pramas. Another great friend. I think Chris and I would have fun making a modern cyberpunk meets psionics game.
Klaus Scherwinski. I'd kill to find a project his art WOULDN'T be perfect for.
Robert K. Schwalb. One of the best writers on the WLD, I will say this again. Robert and I would have made a great team for the design of 4th edition. That was before it came out the way it did. We talked about this briefly in 2005, but he had to go and make money on important stuff.
Mark Smylie. I won't stop pitching my comic book idea to Mark.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Friday, April 03, 2009

Logo : Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies

There's a logo contest going on over at http://www.7skies.net/. The game looks sweet too.

Very cool idea, too.

I made a couple, of course. Can't help myself, even if I'm not as good as Dale Horstman.

And one more…

… just for fun.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Grappling Rules Stupidity

For years, we gamers have mocked RPGs for complex and inane grappling rules. And thanks to a recent gag on Darths and Droids, I find myself ready to mock them as well.

Only, I don't have to. Because Skip Williams shows us exactly why even the BASICS don't work — in what can only be described as the biggest dose of irony the internet has ever seen — I really don't need a punchline to this level of mockery!


To put my money where my mouth is, here is my attempt to make an alternative to the horror that is D&D Grappling.

First. Let's start with the fact that D&D's combat rules are based on miniature play and have never changed. Monks "punching" their opponents is stupid enough, but alright. Trying to bear hug during a skirmish is beyond stupid.

So. To get back to where grappling was when Gygax wrote that annoying little paragraph back in 1st Edition, let's pretend that it's not about "hurting" an opponent, but about "holding" an opponent.

Also note, these are short-hand notes. They could be expanded a little, but this is certainly only about 300 words of text (max) in any rulebook.

Simple Rules
Roll your touch attack to grapple. However, the opponent's STR should also come into play, so add that to his AC as well. Unless he's subdued, he's not going to sit there and let you put your hands on him. There's no AOO. While it makes sense, it also slows play. 3.x is already a slugfest to play through. Let's keep it moving.

If you fail, then nothing happens. Move on.

If you succeed, you now have a HOLD on your opponent.

Whlie HELD, the opponent suffers a penalty to AC and BAB equal to the STR bonus + Size modifer (a small creature is less likely to HOLD you and a large one MORE likely) of the person holding him (minimum 1). Since this is a standard rule of the game (now). Everyone should just have a GRAPPLE stat on their character sheet. If this reduces the target's AC below 10, he is considered flat-footed. If this reduces the target's AC below 1, he is considered prone (pulled to the ground).

To extend the hold, the attacker must succeed at a contested Strength check. Failure does not lose the hold, but success adds 1 to the penalty for being Held.

At anytime, the target may use a Standard action or Move action (at -4) to break the hold, by making a contested Strength check. The attacker gets a bonus to the check for an extended hold (equal to the bonus accumulated so far). Watch wrestling. The longer you're held, the more tired you get.

Small creatures need to work en masse to pull a large creature down. Every creature beyond the first adds to the HOLD penalty. The increase is equal to the STR bonus + Size modifer of the person holding him, minimum 1. Get enough small creatures together and you can pull someone large down.

That's it. Done.

Grappling doesn't do damage. It holds people in place.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

John Madden DM

Ultimate Toolbox Notes

Not just for D&D, this fantasy book is finally out. People are getting copies, asking questions, and… from what I've heard… generally loving the book. I've been thumbing through it lately, keeping it next to my desk. I seriously wish I had a fantasy campaign to build so I had a justification for using it.

I did brainstorm some ideas for games it goes well with.

Burning Wheel
Harn. Harn has inspired my writing more than any game world. It's rich, detailed, intelligent world design is just amazing. And it's sad that more gamers prefer the ridiculousness of Eberron and Forgotten Realms over something like Harn or Pendragon.
Any I.C.E. product
In a Wicked Age (some of this stuff makes awesome Oracles)
Pendragon. Requires lots of name tweaking, but there's certainly some room for ideas.
Warlord. Warlord was inspired by Greyhawk and Greyhawk is sort of the starting point for everything.

What I'd really like to do is write up a few new oracles for In a Wicked Age and let fantasy players pick apart the lists for random goodness.

We'll see what I have time for.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Ultimate Toolbox : Freestuff (Military Honors)

Military Honors 1
1. Bravery Medal
2. Bronze (Lion) Medallion
3. Captain's Honor
4. Cardinal's Prize
5. Cavalier's Star
6. Chancellor's Favor
7. Chivalric Decoration
8. [City's Name] Cross or Star
9. Civic Crown
10. Commander's Pin or Shield
11. Commendation of Heroism
12. Courage of the Wolf Award
13. Cross of War
14. Distinguished Command Cross
15. Distinguished Service Award
16. [Division Name] Medal
17. [General's Name] Medal
18. Gold Crest
19. Hero of [Nation Name] Medal
20. Honor of the Crown Medal

Military Honors 2
1. Honorable Conduct Medal
2. The Iron Hammer
3. [King's Name] Medal
4. King's Pride
5. King's War Cross
6. Knight's Cross
7. Legionnaire's Service Medal
8. Mark of the King's Champion
9. [Medal for Long Service]
10. [Medal for Serving in a Specific Campaign]
11. Medal of Chivalry
12. Medal of Valor
13. Medal of [Year]
14. Medallion of Bravery
15. Mercenary's Medal
16. Military Cross
17. [Military Funeral and/or Memorial]
18. [Military Order]
19. [National Holiday]
20. [Ovation]

Military Honors 3
1. The Queen's Blessing
2. Paladin's Cross
3. [Parade]
4. Prince [Prince's Name] Honor
5. Ring of the Prince
6. Royal Star of Courage
7. Sigil of Loyalty
8. Squire's Medallion
9. [Statue and/or Memorial Statue]
10. Star of Gallantry
11. Star of The King's Champion
12. Templar's Favor
13. [Tomb]
14. Uncommon Service Award
15. Volunteer's Medal
16. [Victory Title]
17. War Honor Cross for Heroism
18. War Merit Cross
19. [Weapon]
20. Wound Badge

Military Orders
1. House Order of the Honor Cross
2. Military Order of the Lion
3. Order of the Black Eagle
4. Order of [Color]
5. Order of the Crown
6. Order of [Diety's Name]
7. Order of the Garter
8. Order of [General's Name]
9. Order of the Griffon
10. Order of [King's Name] Crown
11. Order of the King
12. Order of [King's Name]
13. Order of the Prince
14. Order of the Queen
15. Order of the Red Eagle
16. Order of the Titan
17. Order of the White Lion
18. Royal House Order of [Name]
19. Royal Order
20. Royal Order of the Queen

Victory Titles
1. Champion of the [Battle or Place Name]
2. Defender of the [Place Name]
3. Dominator of [Enemy Name]
4. Earl
5. Gatekeeper of [Siege Name]
6. Guardian of the Throne
7. Hunter of the [Beast Name]
8. Hammer of the [Nation Name]
9. Lord of [Place Name]
10. Keeper of [Ideal]
11. King's Champion
12. Knight of Renown
13. Overseer
14. Paladin of [Ideal]
15. Prince
16. Sentinel of [Place Name]
17. Siegebreaker
18. Scion of [Ideal]
19. Warden of the [People]
20. Watcher of the [Place Name]

* In nearly every instance, Crown, King, Queen, Prince, and Throne are interchangeable.

** Ideals are associated with what made the victor famous (courage, purity, valor, etc.)

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Ultimate Toolbox : Free Stuff (Diseases)

Disease Symptoms 1
1. Abscess
2. Adipsia (lack of thirst)
3. Agitation
4. Anger
5. Anosmia (loss of smell)
6. Anxiety
7. Apathy
8. Back pain
9. Blindness
10. Blotchy skin
11. Blueish skin
12. Blurred vision
13. Boils
14. Bone pain
15. Breath odor
16. Burning sensation
17. Changes in sleep patterns
18. Chills
19. Choking
20. Comatose

Disease Symptoms 2
1. Confusion
2. Convulsions
3. Coughing
4. Cracked lips/dry mouth
5. Cysts
6. Decreased ability to clot blood
7. Decreased attention span
8. Decreased coordination
9. Decreased movement
10. Decreased recall
11. Decreased responsiveness
12. Dehydration
13. Delirium
14. Depression
15. Difficulty swallowing
16. Drowsiness
17. Ear infection
18. Easy bruising
19. Emotional instability
20. Fever

Disease Symptoms 3
1. Flank pain
2. Flashbacks
3. Gum bleeding
4. Gum discoloration
5. Gum swelling
6. Halluncinations
7. Headaches
8. Hearing loss
9. Hives
10. Hoarseness
11. Hyperventilation
12. Impaired vision
13. Intense abdominal pain
14. Intolerance to cold/heat
15. Irritability
16. Itching, severe
17. Jaundice
18. Joint pain
19. Kidney pain
20. Lethargy

Disease Symptoms 4
1. Light sensitivity
2. Lockjaw
3. Malaise
4. Memory disorder
5. Mental disorder (mania, phobia, etc.)
6. Metallic taste in mouth
7. Muscle cramping/pain
8. Nausea/Vomiting
9. Necroticis
10. Night blindness
11. Nosebleeds
12. Numbness
13. Open sores
14. Organ failure
15. Paleness
16. Palpitations
17. Paralysis
18. Poor balance
19. Posturing
20. Pustules

Disease Symptoms 5
1. Rash
2. Redness
3. Restlessness
4. Rigidity
5. Ringing in the ear
6. Seizures
7. Shortness of breath
8. Skin lesion/ulcer
9. Slurred speech
10. Sore throat
11. Spasms
12. Sweating
13. Swelling
14. Tenderness
15. Tooth pain/cavities
16. Tremors
17. Vertigo
18. Vomiting blood
19. Weakness
20. Weight loss

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

What the Heck?

I can't stop myself from posting on ENWorld lately. I should compile all my advice and put it here on my blog.


Need to get back to work. No time to dish out advice. Bad jim.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009


I showcased SIX board game prototypes at the office today and all of them were approved.

The sixth game didn't even have any pieces or components, just scribbles on a dry erase board.

If I was a champagne, I'd be spilling over the rim now.

Oh wait. That sounded dirty.

Monday, March 16, 2009

GM-Less D&D

Copied from my post on ENWorld.

Among my internet habits (beyond over-posting for two weeks straight and then disappearing for months on end) is the overwhelming need to talk and post about the cause of a [I]disease[/I] and not talk so much about the symptoms.

For instance, someone might complain about hit point progression in 3.75 and how at the higher levels, some classes just outpace one another, yadda yadda. And while most gamers will try to find the sweet spot of the hit point conundrum, I for one would like to see hit points removed from the game.

See. I've just cut away the cancer, not tried to treat it like a cold sore. This often gets me into trouble because I...

a. Oversimplify problems
b. Ignore the debate raging and present a new caseload
c. Am often wrong

Over on another thread, Jack7 brought up a great post about World Design… is the world there for the characters or are the characters there for [to explore] the world.

A lot of great debate started, and in the end I pointed at two causes of the disease, rather than pointing out the symptoms.

One. Many tropes of 1st Edition (stealing from the dead, XP, and [I]found[/I] magic items) continue on into future editions while other tropes (PCs as mercenaries) get dropped off and replaced with notions of Heroism. After all, if the PCs are heroes, why is there an alignment system? Why do I still get XP for killing baby goblins?

Two. [More important to this thread] I think D&D suffers from so many problems because of the GM vs. PC mentality that there's no immediate solution to Jack7's initial post.

Let me explain.

First. Let us start from the basic premise that D&D is not a game, but a toolbox for creating gameplay experiences. What's the difference? Expectations. D&D sitting on my shelf is nothing more than a nerdy book with cool art. Risk on my shelf is still a box full of dice, cards, and plastic cannons. D&D requires me to think, create, explore, develop, and about 200 more steps before I'm ready to play. Risk is ready to play as soon as I shuffle the cards and pick a color. D&D involved a social contract, preparation, imagination, and suspension of disbelief. Risk requires two or more players and a flat surface 30" by 40". D&D is explored and played differently from house to house. Risk is the same the world over.

For today's examination, I'm going to use a number of theoretical examples. Any one of them could be replaced with another example. Please do not try to pigeonhole or demonize my thesis with anecdotal evidence that "my group doesn't do that." Jack7's entire thread is filled with people "offended" by the notions he is presenting because they don't game that way. And frankly, I don't see much use for "my group" evidence when the hobby is about trends.

Imagine the GM has just spent 30 hours prepping a new campaign world, setting up the first adventure (or two), outlining his campaign, and generally getting ready. Each player makes a character in a vacuum for this campaign, because even though the GM has asked everyone to make the characters together at the game table, two of the six players refuse to do it this way and prefer to have a week to read every feat tree for every possible combo imaginable.

So far, nothing I've said is out of the ordinary or is impossible to imagine.

Imagine that the GM has built an open-ended game plan. He's heard complaints about "railroading" before and he's decided this campaign is going to offer opportunities for PCs with goals. In fact, most of the campaign is urban and combat will be (about) once a session, maybe a little more.

Now. This is where the example forks. In one example, the PCs sit there doing nothing, waiting for the GM to give them a plot to follow (railroading). The GM has made it clear this campaign won't work that way, but old habits die hard and the players are uncomfortable in this new sandbox. If they aren't pointed at orcs to kill, what do they do? In no time, the campaign begins to grind and in no time, the GM is forcing plot hooks onto the PCs, removing choices and options.

In another example, one of the PCs decides to do something so stupid and inane (set off a fireball in a tavern, for instance), that the obvious ramifications of this action can be felt two houses over, where people don't even know what D&D is. The campaign has now run aground, but for very different reasons. Three of the characters are found culpable in the act, sentenced to death, and replaced with new PCs. The other characters now have to either figure out how they know these new PCs and/or ignore the obvious logic flaw of just having a new wizard in the party and/or leave it to the GM to explain away.

In both examples, the GM has done 99% of the work to make this campaign and the responsibility of making it work and getting the engine moving has all been his.

Hardly seems fair, right?

A vocal minority might say, well the GM gets more fun out of the game, so he should do most of the work. To you, I say, "you're wrong."

Another minority might say, that sounds like my group. And to you, I say, "you're a jerk."

Another segment of the populace might say, "yeah, we've got those guys at our game table, too."

The list goes on.

And for 20+ years most of us have learned to either, put up with this kind of behavior, and/or learned to expect less from our game sessions. To quote my buddy James, "Yeah. I just take it all a lot less seriously now. Too many campaigns die so quickly, I just don't get invested in my characters anymore."

This is not an uncommon attitude. Many people eventually move on from gaming because of it.

[My point is coming. Hold on.]

Now. Imagine we decide we want to solve this problem. Because, wasting 30+ hours on a game to have someone ruin it, is a problem. If you're a PC that doesn't think this sucks, please do not post. If you're a GM who feels my pain, continue reading.

There's two problems at work in this scenario I've described.

One. Player investment. The only time they've spent on this game is making their characters and reading a few new character class/feat/race combos that really work together.

Two. Expectations of a GM. Players raised to expect the GM to "entertain" (read, do all of the work) come to the table with different wants/desires/fallacies about the social contract. Short of asking them to leave, the solutions don't grok with everyone. After all, who among us didn't ruin his fair share of campaigns as a teenager before realizing, "crap, that's not cool."

[Aside: Three. Breaking the GM. I actually knew some gamers who set it out as their goal for each campaign to "break the GM." I thought this ranked high on the douche-bag scale, so it doesn't make it into my argument, but it is a funny anecdote about piss-poor players.]

Now. The solution to this conjecture is two-fold. One, we put the PCs in the driver's seat. We involve them in world building (ala Burning Wheel) and give them a stake in the events of the world (even if that means starting them off with a house in the urban setting and making them residents of the town they are adventuring in). If the PCs are invested in the world — if the players get to help design it's elements, choose it's adversaries, build some world elements (race relations, geography, etc.), impact it's tone, and generally HELP the world design — then they are less likely to burn it to the ground. I could go on about this for days, because I've done this many times. If you'd like, I'll post some advice on my blog about it. But it's not my point at all.

The second is going to make a few head's spin off their tops, but it's the whole point of all of this.

GM-less gaming.

And that might sound like a pun, but it's not. It means two things.

Running without a GM and running with a GM who is less involved as an overseer and more involved as a moderator. Notice the slight shift in terminology being used as more than just a 1980s smoke-screen to disguise the role of the GM.

I'm talking about actually playing an RPG without a GM. D&D for that matter. This is an extremely radical point of view, to be sure. But it can be done. [In fact, as much as I dislike 4E (please no version wars), it's actually perfectly designed for it.]

Now. Before I continue, let me be very clear.

This isn't the only remedy for certain kinds of gaming ailments and this cure isn't for everyone. It's just free advice. Think of it like an internet hug.

Now. Let's break down some of the functions of the GM and figure out how these projects can be handed off to the team.

World Design. Back in the day, Last Unicorn Games produced one of the most underrated projects of all time. An RPG called Aria. In it, they described a new concept called the Metamyth, or mythbuilding. Instead of being an RPG about collecting treasure and killing monsters, it was an RPG about building a world, village, character, and myth. The second book in the series was fantastic and basically taught the players how to world build.

Using this system (or an abbreviated version), any team can build a game world worth playing in. Barring that, Burning Wheel has a fantastic world-building system as well. Barring that, everyone buys the same game world from company X and reads it. We did this one for Ravenloft, only we had a jerk at the table so it didn't go very far. But the experiment was worth the time.

Campaign. Not to be confused with world-building, the campaign is about the elements of the world that PCs want to explore. What's the widget they need to acquire? What's the dragon's name they need to kill? What's the thrust of the campaign that's worth sacrificing a year of your life to accomplish?

Stealing from the 36 Writer Plots, the campaign can be generated randomly or determined through bidding, or… just agreed upon by players who get along. The entire campaign thrust, however, should be about something, even if the smaller pieces to get to the THING don't always add up to the gestalt of the THING.

For instance, a campaign about wiping out the orc nation of Bone-Bone will probably be about an accumulation of power, some treaty signing, and a few quests to prove yourself worthy of this lauded goal. In the end, the final battle with the Bone-Bone orcs will be epic and massive, requiring all of the PCs resources (and even the expectation of failure).

Since the players can easily choose a campaign plot, we've eliminated another TASK from the list of things a GM must do to "entertain."

Moving on.

Adversaries. This one is pretty easy, actually. While it sounds complicated, it's not. First off, everyone loves making characters. Secondly, there are about 6,000 published books (number not verified) about NPCs and things to encounter. If you can't jot down a name, class, and a few relevant stats on an index card, then what good are you?

A stack of adversaries should be about 100-200 high depending on the scope of the campaign. It should be mostly NPCs of the dominate race in the game world. In fact, each card can be double-sided with NPCs on one side and monsters on the other. Draw one at random when you need to. Keep the important NPCs handy if you need to refer to them again.

Plot. This is a little trickier, but still manageable. In fact, rather than tell you how to do it, I'm just going to point to the successes of games like In a Wicked Age, Burning Wheel, Inspectres, and so on. Seriously good stuff and a lot of advice on how to let players build scenes.

Moderator. Here's where the fun comes in. Many players turn to the GM for interpretation of the die rolls. Why? Is his logic so much better than mine? Is he really smarter, more creative, more capable of determining what a '16' means? Why can't I narrate my successes? Why can't the guy to my left narrate my failures? When I designed George's Children this is the number one thing I did to remove a GM from the game and let everyone play.

It really is that simple. For that matter. Why can't the guy to my left roll the dice of the monster that is attacking me as well? In the open? Why does it have to be a secret?

XP and treasure should be a cinch to figure out if you can do all this other stuff. Although I'm guessing the rewards of running a GM-less game will resonate in such a way, that stopping to roll up treasure will stop being as fun as it used to be.

Cause and Effect. One of the most important roles of a GM is determining the ramifications of the PCs actions. If they burn down the village of ABC, how are the people in village DEF doing to respond? Again. Why is the logic of the GM so much better than the logic of the PCs? Couldn't the players themselves determine for themselves that they need to hide out for a while and/or skip town for stealing Mrs. Blankenship's pies?

Okay. I think I've said enough for now.

I think this is a good place for the discussion to begin.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

The Game World We Live In

Wow. Smartest post on the internet in a very long time.

Seriously smart stuff, worthy of inclusion.


Friday, March 13, 2009


I'm working on some ideas for a game that involves post-apocolyptic type mutants. Anyone that can point me to some powers and/or lists of powers would be great. Feel free to post some ideas in the comments if you like.

Ultimate Toolbox

400 pages
1000+ tables
Endless gaming potential

Here's some free charts that only recently got made.

1d20 Mercenary Companies 1
1. Arcane Corps
2. August Trackers
3. Banik’s Crawlers
4. Bastion’s Chargers
5. Berrig’s Muster
6. Blackblood Legionnaires
7. The Blades of Tannahawk
8. Bloodmoon Tyrants
9. Blunderbuss Enforcers
10. The Bonecrushers
11. The Clansmen
12. The Cloudkings
13. Coin’s Hold Outfit
14. Company of Aegis
15. The Corruptors
16. The Crimson Guard
17. Darksky Archers
18. Deadman Lancers
19. Deadwind’s Fist
20. Death’s Company

1d20 Mercenary Companies 2
1. Devil’s Vale Detachment
2. The Devil’s Rats
3. Doomknights of Ithaca
4. Doomsmen
5. The Dragon Horde
6. The Eagleriders
7. Falconfyre Raiders
8. The Fangs
9. Fellon’s Lowhunters
10. Fiendfyre Crew
11. Fifty-Seven Blades
12. The Final Siege
13. Firavun’s Men
14. Forthman’s Riders
15. Frontier’s Gauntlet
16. Frostlance Brigade
17. Garum’s Band
18. Ghoulslayers
19. Goblinbane Squad
20. The Godless

1d20 Mercenary Companies 3
1. Gorgon Crushers
2. The Grey Riders
3. Greenking Footmen
4. Guardians of Rebuke
5. The Hawks
6. The Hammers
7. The Helmsmen
8. High Metal Assembly
9. Hooded Cartel
10. The Ironmen
11. Iverman’s Command
12. The Ivory Crown Ring
13. The Jackals
14. Jakara’s Troopers
15. The Kinslayers
16. Knights of the Anvil
17. Korissin’s Army
18. The Lashers
19. The Maulers
20. Merchant Shield Combine

1d20 Mercenary Companies 4
1. Mountaincleave Horde
2. The Murdermen
3. The Nevermen
4. Northmen of Steel
5. The Oathhunters
6. One Hundred More
7. Orcskinners
8. Order of the Lock
9. Pathforgers of Anoch
10. Pilot’s Dragoons
11. Queen’s Harriers
12. Quinon’s Gang
13. Redwolf Pack
14. Retinue of the Damned
15. Riseneye Avengers
16. The Sellswords of Cairn’s End
17. Sentinels of the Black Stone
18. Seven Against All
19. The Shadowmen
20. The Shieldbearers

1d20 Mercenary Companies 5
1. The Sinisters
2. Skulks
3. The Skullsmiths
4. Soldiers of the Spear
5. The Sovereign
6. Stainsword Troop
7. Sunderstone Axemen
8. Tanner’s Scouts
9. Team of the Scarred Scale
10. Thorn Legion
11. Titan’s Pact
12. The Trollslayers
13. Warriors of the Tattered Banner
14. Werejackle Brigade
15. Whitecliff Plainsmen
16. Winged Contingent
17. Winterfire Legion
18. The Witch’s Curse
19. The Wraiths
20. Wyvern’s Watchmen

New Adventures

We met with a new gamer recently (Colin), who should be interesting to hang out with. We're going to try George's Children for our first game session, followed by some Dogs in the Vineyard, and topped off with IN A WICKED AGE, which I've been dying to play again.

Aaron is about to have his baby, so until he's out from under the weight of "new born baby stuff" it looks like it's board games for a while at Jason's place on Thursdays.

Anyway. You didn't sign up for gossip, you want to know about gaming. So. Bear in mind that I intend to run Dogs in an alternate setting (Inquisition perhaps) and I want to use In a Wicked Age with all of my COIL notes.

We'll see what happens.

I should have a TOOLBOX post for everyone soon, as well.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Board Game Design

I've been working like a dog for the past couple weeks. Haranshire campaign is probably dead and soon I'll have some notes to share with everyone about some board games I'm designing.

Anyway. Sorry for the pause in posts.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Haranshire Five : The Gleaming Glade

Micha is leaving the group and moving back to SLO. David is nearly impossible to game with, so I think the group is a bust.

As such, today's post about last week's game should go quickly.

The group advanced through the Hardlow Wood, north, avoiding every detail I placed before them. Tracks. Noises. Worgs following them.It's as though, a totally new group showed up and decided not to get into trouble.

Aaron (the Druid) decided to hold back and investigate the worgs (thinking them dire wolves). He in turn, spoke Sylvan with the worgs and then cast speak with animals. Despite the fact that they are magical beasts, I allowed it. Aaron learned a great deal about the infighting going on in the wood and about the gleaming glade, which the worgs offered to escort him to, if he promised to do something about the orcs, hobgoblins, and gnolls fighting for territory in the world.

Pretty cool scene, actually.

After two more days of travel (described in detail by yours truly), the PCs arrived in an obviously blasted and dying portion of the forest. The worgs said they would go no further and told the PCs to follow the gouge of earth until it reached the glade.

Fast forward to the PCs ignoring the strange lights at midnight which were obviously the gleaming glade, the next evening proved to be more interesting as the impending doom/fear/evil of the region began to resonate. Aaron and David failed their Will saves, fleeing from the area, while Micha's dwarf stayed to watch over the two remaining pilgrims who studied the land. Eventually, the second pilgrim also fled, leaving Miritz and Eithana to guard watch the glade.

In a style befitting Kubrick, a strange obelisk/cenotaph appeared, gleaming and glowing with an evil white light. From a mile away, the other PCs watched. Unable to see any shapes, other than the light, the two were allowed to begin racing back to the stone (giving them 20 rounds to get there — I was generous).

Eithana touched the stone and immediately her form began to disolve away, leaving a wight where a woman once stood. A long and deadly fight later, Miritz was nearly dead and too stupid to run away, while Tsool and Evo ran as fast as they could, still a few rounds from reaching the clearing.

Miritz died from Con drain (I don't do negative energy levels, those suck) and five rounds later stood up to fight, but by this point the wight was engaged with the druid and mage who used ineffectual tactics to fight the beast. Now. Granted, I gave it a lot of hit points, some anti-paladin levels, and a 16-point touch attack smite that worked different from its drain, making it very very very tough to fight. But the PCs, did fight it for a long time, failing many rolls and doing over 90 points of damage to it (it was a 8HD, 96hp wight).

However, the wight had other objectives and I didn't have it fight the PCs every round.

Sadly, Miritz was in the fight now and soon Irmalak would be dead, also returning as a wight. Yes. At one point, two PCs fought against three wights.

I'd never seen anything like it before.

And instead of running, they continued to put themselves in harm's way.

The fight ended with the larger of the wight's getting away and the smaller two dying at the hand's of the PCs. Technically, Evo should have died, but since I was being generous all around, I let it go.

Although, it did give me a great idea of an undead campaign.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

OrcCon 2009 Report

I'm back from OrcCon and below are my notes about the con. I've edited out some playtest stuff that I don't want out on the net, yet.

Isle of Doctor Necreaux. We got in four playtests of this game. Everyone liked it for the most part. One person complained about not being effective and another was confused about what was going on. In each instance, I made someone else read the rules and explain the game and I merely participated.

It was generally agreed that NINJA needed to be fixed, pending items needed clarification, a final round rule needed to be written to stop people from choosing a SPEED of 20, and some terminology in the rulebook needed to be depersonalized as it referred to TURNS (it's a TEAM TURN, after all). The card titles also needed to be distinguished from the text a little more clearly. It won't take more than a day to implement all of these changes. I intend to talk with Jon Letisko one more time about the game and then we're done.

XXXX. This is a small prototype game that I made that I played in my hotel room with two close friends who I trust and I got some GREAT feedback. I should have a new prototype ready for the end of the week. We played it twice and everyone agreed they didn't know what game it felt like.

New Games
Agricola. I finally played this game and I understand why this is #1 on BGG. Wow. Amazing resource management game with enough random elements to make replay value 100 times greater than Puerto Rico. Great game. If you can find the rules, read them. Really, really, really good. And very expensive to produce. I can't believe it's only $60.

Battlestar Galactica. This game was not made for the EURO crowd, but for the FFG Experience-style board gamers. It is not fun. It is work. It is exactly how you turn a cooperative-based ACTION POINT game into work. I'm sure people love the replay value because of the CRISIS cards, but this was not a rewarding game experience for me or anyone else at the table.

Race for the Galaxy. I finally played this game as well and I hated it as much as I thought I would. It is the predecessor to DOMINION and part of the wave of CCG to Board Games that are coming out now. Race's poor graphics, complicated ICONOGRAPHY, and poor graphics (did I mention that twice) really hurt the fun of this game. It could be fun, but it's again, more work than it is play experience. I like some elements of the game, but this was ruined by the game's inability to figure out what it wanted to be (literally, the mechanic is tacked to some random theme about space exploration). Like Dominion, it felt like a rough draft for a game idea, but was far from "ready for prime time."

More Games
Shadows over Camelot. We played this twice. Once without the Merlin expansion and once with. The traitor mechanic for this game really sets it apart from other games. The Battlestar CYLON mechanic is pretty good, but no better than the Shadows one.

Lifeboat. A well-established INDIE card game by Jeff Siadek. This game is meaner and more cutthroat than lunch-money. Really. It took 30 minutes to play and there was certainly a desire to play again amongst our group. Jeff Siadek also showed off a new card game he's doing in the style of APPLES TO APPLES. Really hilarious. Should sell well to gamers at first. I suspect it'll be out for GENCON.

In a Wicked Age. This is an RPG, but an amazing one. It's part of the indie movement. I cannot express enough how great this game is and that I really should steal some of these ideas for COIL. Even if I don't, this game just moved to the front of the line for great fantasy RPG.

This was a good show, overall and would have been better if I didn't force myself to learn some bad games.