I go way back with Dungeons and Dragons. I started on the black box, DMed 2nd Edition AD&D long ago, have dreamt of running Ravenloft for nearly as long, upgraded to 3rd edition in high school, joined some friends in college for D20 Modern (hey, it was the Aughts. A game is a game, right?), and ended up in a 3.5 game for a while after college. I skipped 4th, and played 5 or 6 levels of a 5th Edition campaign on Roll20 a couple years ago (a great campaign and a character I miss). I have played or run most versions of D&D in the last 25ish years, and it all comes down to this: I’m not very good at it.
Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for the optimization community and their efforts to tweak, fix, or break the various editions of the game. I love the technical twists and turns of an inventive build as much as the next guy (honestly, probably a lot more than the next guy), and deeply appreciate the far end of it: the PunPuns and Peasant Railguns and Elven artificers who use a feedback loop of suffering to understand all things. It’s inventive and crazy and I am not the guy for it. I don’t play that way, and never played with a group that deemed it important enough for us all to rise to the occasion. As a result, the one player who rides that train does so alone and stands head and shoulders past the rest of us scrub rookies. I went down a different path a while ago. more “A Gaming Hippie Heads Back to the Dungeon”
This game was the biggest surprise of the convention for me. It’s one of those titles that I kept hearing about and my friends kept saying “You need to play Protocol.” I signed up for it as my last session of the con and a friend of mine who has backed the Kickstarters brought her collection to choose from.
Each scenario is packaged as a separate “game”, sharing common rules and materials. Character creation is very free-form, with some suggested roles in the module to get you started. You draw from a deck of cards to establish motivation and relationships to other characters (and for the scenario we ran, our relationship to the primary NPC). Once you’ve settled some setting assumptions, you’re ready to play. Setup takes 15 to 20 minutes, which is great for a zero-prep improv thing. more “Midwest GameFest, Pt. 8 (Protocol)”
It’s become a tradition at local gaming conventions that my friend Matt runs his Dread game in the Sunday morning slot. It’s traditionally kind of dead the morning of the last day, what with everyone having been up so late the previous couple days. I got lucky this time and Daylight Saving came through just after our Soth game and blessed us with another hour of sleep.
The twist this year was Matt adapted a Dark Heresy adventure he ran a long time ago for Dread, building an atmosphere of danger and inevitability to our exploring a derelict warship and following on the heels of a dangerous daemon. It was a blended team of Inquisitors racing against the clock to retrieve an Imperial artifact and save this ship in On a Collision Course with Destiny. more “Midwest GameFest, Pt. 7 (Dread)”
Who doesn’t love a good cult ritual? There’s something comforting about knowing right where to stand, what to wear, who to stab and when. This game blends the steadfast surety of a Lovecraftian doomsday cult with the madcap shenanigans of a Coen Brothers film. It’s Call of Cthulhu meets Fiasco in Soth, a game by Steve Hickey.
Our party was up for a wild time. By this point in the convention, each of us had played together a time or two, so the “getting to know you” phase of con friendship was well underway. I like to think that contributed to just how absurd most of this ended up… more “Midwest GameFest 2018, P. 6 (Soth)”
This is an exciting one for me. I haven’t gone much beyond re-skinning a thing or working within someone else’s framework, be it Savage Worlds, Fate, or some horror one-shot, in some time. And while yet another Apocalypse World hack may feel like a re-skin, my goal for Untamed Suburbia is to design a game that does something new for me: take a core idea from conception to fruition intact. I’ve pondered a number of projects over the years (one about school kids as an Encyclopedia Brown meets Bruce Colville supernatural adventure series, or something that scales out a bit like Reign as has you playing both PCs at ground level and the major players in the setting working behind the scenes at the same time), but none of them quite landed. There are notes, but few of them got the nudge they needed.
When I started talking about Untamed Suburbia, folks were interested. The opportunity to play animals, not anthropomorphic or magical or talking animals, but animals: four feet, eat off the ground, sleep in a nest animals as PCs resonated with folks. I have wanted to do a card-based selection for character creation for a little while and this seemed like a good time to put it together. So notes became a short rulebook became cards became a session at Midwest Gamefest!
more “Midwest GameFest 2018, Pt. 5 (Untamed Suburbia)”
This game was a first for me, a GM-less experience without specific PCs that functions as a world building exercise as well as an rpg experience.
The Quiet Year by Avery Alder follows a community after things have collapsed, in a lull between their conflict with a group known as The Jackals and before the arrival of the mysterious Frost Shepherds which ends the game on a random card during the winter. The game is available for download and can be run as a print-and-play or by buying the printed copy which has you looking fewer things up. Either way, you’ll need some paper and writing implements to plan your community. Hopefully, your community fares better than ours did… more “Midwest GameFest 2018, Pt. 4 (The Quiet Year)”
Ten Candles and I have a brief but passionate history: I have written about it twice before (at KantCon and when I ran my own variant), I barely missed a chance for a pickup game of it with some friends a few weeks ago, I’m quoted on the Ten Candles website and have emailed back and forth with Stephen Dewey about my Running on Empty build.
I’m super into this game, is what I’m saying. So it makes sense that when I had the chance to jump into another session at Midwest that I would do it. This might be my last time writing about it for a bit, but it definitely won’t be my last experience with it. Let’s get to the session, shall we? more “Midwest GameFest 2018, Pt. 3 (Ten Candles)”
Let me state for the record, I really wish I had some pictures of this one, since there was a lot going on in the middle of this table. Jenga blocks, board game tiles, a variety of pawns, glass gaming stones, and index cards with notes and numbers… For a guy who mostly runs theater of the mind or a simple white board, it was quite a shift.
Edit: One of my players snapped a shot of the island as it sank!
Photo Credit: Andria Osborne, 2018
Anyway, last weekend was Midwest GameFest. I discussed my experience with Bluebeard’s Bride yesterday, and today is about my Fate Core session, Rock Chambers & The Forbidden Island! more “Midwest GameFest 2018, Pt. 2 (Fate Core)”
Content Advisory: domestic and sexual abuse or trauma
This weekend was Midwest GameFest, the other tabletop convention here in town after KantCon in July. It’s a solid tabletop convention on the other side of the city and serves a somewhat different crowd of gamers. It also happens to be within a week of my birthday every year, so I usually take a day off work and treat myself to a gaming weekend before we head into the holiday season.
It’s a four day event, but Thursday can be a little sparse. I wasn’t planning on taking another day off work, but a friend of mine was running a game I have heard really good things about and I knew I would have to add an evening onto my schedule to make it happen. The game is Bluebeard’s Bride, a Powered by the Apocalypse system written by Whitney “Strix” Beltrán, Marissa Kelly, and Sarah Richardson. more “Midwest GameFest 2018 Pt. 1 (Bluebeard’s Bride)”