What’s VFF Publishing, you ask? Why, it’s my publishing imprint! Yes, I write and publish novels. This blog is about gaming, but I see no reason not to redirect you to the Visions of Fantasy & the Future site if you’re curious about what I write. I write fantasy and sci-fi. You can buy my novels at Amazon and other fine sellers of literature.
So, last weekend, I was at Gary Con in Lake Geneva, Wisconsin. Gary Con is an annual pilgrimage for me. Firstly, it’s the only convention I currently attend during which I can play games. Secondly, it’s a celebration of the life of Gary Gygax. Thirdly, it’s become like a family reunion. My wife and I always enjoy seeing familiar faces, catching up with old friends, and making new. I didn’t have time to write up day-by-day reports, so this will be more of a greatest hits.
- My wife got Con Crud.
- It was awkward when people asked where we were from and we answered “Indiana.” Thanks Governor Pence.
- I cosplayed! First time for me, really. Dressing up for Hallowe’en is one thing. Spending a good portion of the day is challenging, as I discovered.
- I started the con off with an Atomic Robo Fate Accelerated game, Action Scientists of Tesladyne – Issue 1: The Madness of Dr. Frankenheimer. Much fun was had by all and several people indicated they would seek out the comic. Fortunately for me, the game was full of people familiar with Fate. It was tremendously helpful in gaining a better understanding of game flow (I had GMed it 4X up to that point, but was not at all confident). So, thanks to those players!
- After Atomic Robo, I changed into my first costume of the con. Star Trek: TOS. Except for the boots, it was about as screen-accurate as one can get. Concessions are made to studio lighting: Kirk’s wraparound casual tunic was the same color as the standard uniform, but the material made the standard uniforms appear gold instead of avacado. Everyone thinks of them as gold now.
- It was in the Star Trek uniform that I played in my next game: Airfield Follies, a Hollow Earth Expedition game run by James Carpio of Gygax Magazine. It was pulpy and inspired a bit by King Kong. I played a slovenly movie producer that more concerned with making my final film than everyone’s lives. Still, no one killed me and I got some great coverage of the t-rex chomping down on one of us. Fun fact: those TOS pants are tight enough that they rode up and down while I was sitting, so I was constantly fidgeting. The zipper also liked to open whenever I sat. They fit, but the material from which they’re made has NO give. It’s sparkly, though.
- I planned to switch to a TNG costume for the evening, but I’ve lost so much weight it fit me like a mu-mu, so I had to ditch that plan.
- Ever hear of the show “Mountain Monsters“? It was the basis for my first-ever Call of Cthulhu game. It’s like Duck Dynasty meets Supernatural. I played Trapper. I was proud of not making ANY M*A*S*H jokes. We did get an NPC stepped on by a building-sized eldritch horror, though. Kinda feel bad about that.
- Friday was Fallout Friday! It doesn’t show up particularly well in the pictures, but the Pipboy has a working screen and the laser pistol is painted to look like Pew Pew from New Vegas. Fun fact: the tire pauldron was a real truck tire in a former life and isn’t particularly suited to wearing on a shoulder. I need to line it with foam or something. I had a tender spot there for the rest of the weekend.
- I played AD&D with Luke Gygax. I created a dwarven cleric and named him Gristle McThornbody. He ran us through a new adventure written by him and a bunch of the other Old Guard (Tim Kask, Frank Mentzer, James M. Ward, etc.) called The Cave of Wisdom. I died two rooms in, crushed by a mama troll with a large frying pan. Good times! It was actually a good thing for me, because that game ran from 9am – 1pm and I was GMing my Fallout-based Fate game from 1pm – 4:30pm. That left NO time for walking to the next game or food.
- The afternoon was my Fallout Fate Accelerated game, Fire from the Sky. A few younger players tried to meta-game based on their knowledge of the Fallout franchise, but overall the game went well. I had a bunch of Nuka Cola bottle caps I used for Fate Points. My idea of handing out cards with items to represent a more Fallout-y style of Stunt worked well, though I forgot to print out about 1/3rd of them. Some of them need to be reworded, as well.
- I changed back into civvies for my Friday evening game: Savage Spaceballs! I played Barf, because I wanted to be my own best friend. Lonestar and Vespa were separated with two horrible little children, but reunited to search for the stolen Family Jewels of Druidia. Yes, jokes were made. My wife played Dot Matrix, nanny to the horrible children and her East Coast accent made it easy for her to slip into Joan Rivers mode. Dark Helmet was relegated to working at Space FedEx and Colonel Sanders took a Batman-like turn in his self-appointed role of Dark Helmet’s guardian (except chicken-themed). It was rather hilarious… particularly since Barf had developed a leg-humping problem. Mogs gotta establish dominance!
- Saturday I was foolish and scheduled my Saturday Morning Superheroes game (also Fate Accelerated) for 8AM… after a midnight end for Savage Spaceballs. I’m getting too old for that. Plus, I found out that breakfast wasn’t officially served until 8AM. Oops. Oh well, lesson learned. For this game, I was assigned a table in the “Porch” area; the room in which Gary Gygax’s memorial table sits. It’s the room in which most of the Old Guard run their games from cushy, high-backed padded chairs. Nearby, Merle Rassmussen was running his women-only Top Secret game (FYI: Merle Rassmussen designed the original Top Secret RPG for TSR in the late ’70s). I didn’t feel right sitting in the high-back chair, especially since we already received an “Old Guard” parking permit and reserved space due to my wife’s wheelchair. Anyway, the game went well with Casper the Friendly Ghost, Yogi Bear, Captain Caveman, Grape Ape, Hong Kong Phooey, and the Smurfs teaming up to defeat The Cloaked Figure (real identity… SPOILERS! Neener, neener, neener!) after the murder of Dynomutt. Yeah, it was a little dark. But fun and perfect for a Saturday morning with cries of “CAPTAIN CAAAAAAAAAVEMAAAAAN” and someone singing the Smurf song as they hijacked an RC car.
- Saturday afternoon, my wife played in James M. Ward’s women-only game. Out of 12 or 13 players, only 4 characters died. I first thought perhaps he wasn’t feeling well (he has a reputation), but it turns out they just played really well. He was testing a new game system he’s developing and it earned high praise from all the players. James M. Ward is the man who got my wife into gaming several years ago, and we always make a point of saying “hi” to him at Gary Con.
- The rest of my Saturday was open. Registration issues kept me from getting into anything else that day, though I did take my wife’s ticket for Cthulhu Invictus (a Call of Cthulhu game set in the Roman Empire). Both of my CoC games were intended for my wife and I to both play in, but she got in and I did not, so I just used her tickets (not to worry… wait until Sunday night). It was a lot of fun and featured many of the same players from Savage Spaceballs. Both events were run by folks from GameHole Con. A documentary crew was filming Stephen Pokorny (the guy who makes Dwarven Forge) throughout the con and they stopped by our table, so you might see my remarks at some point (I had to sign a release and everything).
- The group photo of the collected mass of Hawaiian shirts worn in honor of Gary Gygax was taken Saturday night. I don’t have a copy of it, but you can see it on Facebook.
- Sunday morning, I ran my final game of the con: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen – 1980s Edition! (Fate Accelerated). This game featured B.A. Baracus (The A-Team), MacGyver, Doc Brown (Back to the Future), Jack Burton (Big Trouble in Little China), Melina Havelock (For Your Eyes Only), and Sarah Conner (The Terminator). I used Karl Keesler’s Savage Worlds adventure for the basis of this game, except I changed some of the characters so they all fit into the 1980s (his PC were all from ’80s films; mine were all from 80s films that took place IN the ’80s). I also added Sho-Nuff from The Last Dragon as one of David Lo Pan’s flunkies. It went really well, with Terminators, three Jason’s (from Friday the 13th), a plethora of Wing Kong, Jack Burton’s truck, and Lo Pan all showing up at the finale. It was a good way to end my run as a GM there this year.
- The rest of Sunday was socializing and taking it easy. My wife was invited to an encore of the Mountain Monsters Call of Cthulhu game and I encouraged her to take advantage of the opportunity. I planned to play again as a different character, but while we were waiting by the fire, Merle Rasmussen stopped by to say “Hi” and we ended up chatting about Top Secret, TSR, and writing for nearly 3 hours! That’s one of the great things about Gary Con, it’s small enough that you never know who you’re going to run into and talk with into the late hours of the evening.
That’s about it. We left Monday afternoon and drove back. As always, it was a great convention. I’m already booked at The Lodge at Geneva Ridge for Gary Con VII and have begun planning my games*!
You can see a slideshow of all my Gary Con pictures at Photobucket, including my wife’s pirate and Victorian outfits. For once, I remembered I brought a camera, though the number of pictures I took averaged less than 10 a day.
*I’m planning on running four games for the Dead Games Society next year. Two of which will be S1: The Tomb of Horrors, one general admission and one for women only (there are a lot of people who have never experienced it in the original AD&D… they deserve that experience if they so desire). I’m also writing an original AD&D adventure titled “The Wailing Sore,” and will return to Paranoia with “Bugs in the System.”
This adventure log will contain spoilers for the D&D 5th edition Tyranny of Dragons adventure, Hoard of the Dragon Queen. Ye’ve been warned!
Work in my Real Life™ got busy and I didn’t have the energy to update this. Now you get a mega-update with two sessions in one! Since the details of the last two D&D sessions are lost in the morass of fog that is the labyrinth of my memories, this will be more like a highlight reel. It doesn’t help that the last two sessions we played weren’t D&D at all; we play tested a couple of Fate Accelerated adventures I was working on for Gary Con.
When we last left our heroes, they were prepared to depart with the trade caravan heading from Baldur’s Gate to Waterdeep. Their cover as ale merchants was established and well-planned. En route, a wild red dragon swarm appeared and wiped them all out, turning the caravan to ash. Ash and tears. And blood. Ash, tears, and blood.
Except that didn’t happen!
What happened was, they learned one of the other members of the caravan was a stuck-up aristocrat who beat his animals. They rescued another traveler from a band of hobgoblin raiders. This grateful traveler joined the caravan. They encountered a field of weirdly fast-growing fungus and later heard horrible singing in the distance* which they chose not to investigate. Several more uneventful days followed, then the cultist’s wagon overturned on a rock, spilling ill-gotten booty. Our heroes helped right the wagon and pretended not to notice the purloined treasure. After a few more days, they were attacked by perytons as they passed near some mountains. Fortunately, they worked together with some of the more helpful caravaners and killed the beasts. The same afternoon, they spotted a marvelous sight: a golden stag leading a herd of deer. Our heroes realized what a portent it was and prevented the caravan hunters from killing the creature.
Eventually, they got a respite from the weeks of camping out under open skies: they arrived at a roadside inn. Oddly, despite the presence of only a handful of other people, the innkeeper claimed the inn was full. What appeared to be a noble with his entourage hurled abuse and insults, almost daring the Rockbottom Brewery crew to attack him. The situation deteriorated and a fight broke out. The noble and his men were not simply drunken fops, they were in fact a group of bored assassins looking to commit murder for fun. Kagark and Tom Haverford** from the caravan joined in the battle. Kagark was determined not to let harm come to Veya. After a hard-fought battle, the innkeeper lay dead along with the assassins. There was much rejoicing.
The encounter with the assassin was widely rumored to be one of the TPK-traps in Hoard of the Dragon Queen. I can certainly see where it got that reputation. The fact that I threw two NPCs into the fight on the side of the PCs really didn’t affect the outcome, nor did my tweak to the assassins to make that slightly less-deadly (I changed the poison on their weapons to work only on the first attack, rather than every attack; since they never hit with any subsequent attacks after their first hit, it never came up). The fact is, my players came up with an effective strategy for battling the assassins, I rolled fairly poorly on average (a switch from the previous session where I seemed to be critting on every other attack), and they earned their victory.
After Gary Con, Hoard of the Dragon Queen will resume. I really needed the break from D&D to test my Fate Accelerated adventures. Pacing FAE game is WAY different than D&D and I would have had all four games run way short if I hadn’t spent March’s game days testing.
* I was going to throw in the classic Dungeon adventure: “Old Man Katan and the Incredible, Edible, Dancing Mushroom Band”, but they didn’t take the bait. Oh well! Maybe I’ll run it at Gary Con next year.
** A halfling whose name came from a random name generator for halflings. I can only assume the programmer is a fan of Parks & Recreation, because one of my players pointed out that Tom Haverford is a character in that show… which I was unaware of.
I wrote a brief story and painted a couple of miniatures for a contest in a Facebook miniature painting group. I thought I’d share it here:
(The contest rules were: “… choose two Bones! miniatures, paint them as a loving couple, and tell us their love story. Don’t feel mired in convention, either… just have fun with it. There are no politics here… man and woman, man and man, man and beholder… we don’t care, just keep it consensual and ‘romantic.'”) Sadly the two miniatures I chose did not have very finely defined detail; a failing common to some of the earlier Bones miniatures castings.)
She was a lady of refinement, daughter of a lord, lost in the Bleakmere. He was a scout for the Mucklebones tribe, one of their most fierce hunters. Draak had her in his sights, ready to shoot the smooth-skinned interloper down. There was something in the way she carried herself, a regal bearing, a quiet dignity in the face of all the dangers of the swamp.
He stayed his hand, and instead showed her the way to safety, revealing himself only at the end. Alora was shocked by her clandestine watcher, her hidden protector, but saw honor and nobility in his eyes. Though they were from different worlds, Alora reached out to him.
“Stay with me. Together, let us discover the wonders of this world.”
Draak’s heart leapt. Ever since he was hatched, he explored. He knew there must be more to see than the twisted trees and black pools of Bleakmere. He took her hand and let the woman sweep him away. Through thick and thin, fair weather and foul, Alora and Draak traveled near and far, never leaving each other’s sides. Companions true, their love for discovery, adventure, and each other led them to experience all the great adventures the world offered.
These are Reaper’s Bones Juliette Wizard and Lizardman Spearman. Juliette must have been one of the earlier castings of Bones because her features are very soft and poorly detailed. Even Lizardman Spearman suffers a bit from lack of detail around the face and chest (though his tail and legs were really nice). She photographed much redder than her skin tone really is and the subtle dry-brushing in her hair didn’t come through at all. Before I painted her, I looked on Reaper’s site, and I couldn’t even find the Bones version of this miniature. Obviously, Reaper wasn’t happy with the casting.
It’s a two-for-one Bones day! (This probably isn’t the first time I’ve said that, and it probably won’t be the last). I needed a few miniatures for session 4 of my Tyranny of Dragons campaign (watch for that update coming soon!). For a brief moment, my brain went wonky and I almost looked in the store for new miniatures to represent these two adversaries, then I remembered all my unpainted Bones!
So, for those of you keeping track, today’s miniatures are Dragonman Warrior (which I will be using as a Half-Dragon) and Lysette, Female Elf (which I will be using a human female cleric w/a halberd since I don’t have any miniature like that at all).
First thing I did, of course, was to wash them in warm, soapy water (more on that in a minute) and then I affixed them to larger, more stable bases. Since these would likely be used in tactical, combat encounters, I wanted decent bases.
After that, I applied the base coats. The Dragonman got steel armor and blue scales (per his depiction in the adventure). Lysette got purple robes because she’s representing a character known as the “Wearer of Purple.” I learned three things from this: I didn’t have purple paint. Mixing Privateer P3 red and blue (I don’t remember the exact names) doesn’t result in purple, but rather muddy brown, and I FAILED to scrub all the mold release off of these miniatures. You can’t really see it in the pictures because I didn’t take them until I got the paint to properly stick.
For Lysette, I used a Folk Art purple paint I thinned with distilled water. I did not thin it enough. I made do, but I immediately went out and bought more Privateer P3 paints to avoid the mess I made in the future. I ended up changing the color of her pack, too. I decided to make her blonde (despite how she is depicted in the adventure) and if I was doing this over, I would ultimately paint her jerkin a different color. Perhaps blue, or maybe red.
You can see in these pictures, the base coat of the blonde hair. I am not particularly good at hair, especially if it’s not black or brown. Naturally, I turned to Google. There are a lot of painting guides and tutorials written by far more skilled artists than I.
Despite the blob that the purple paint was, I rather like the way it came out. In closeups it sort of looks like the robes were dyed by hand; they have that uneven quality a quick-dip dye job might create. I certainly couldn’t have achieved that effect if I tried.
I don’t have an in progress picture of the Dragonman because, well, I forgot. Plus, he’s mostly armor. Now that I’m looking at the pictures, his armor really needs a black wash. I admit, I’m a little afraid to try it because the wash I did on the blue dragon was a disaster. I have another week before this miniature will get used, though, so I might read up a bit on it again and try this weekend. If I screw it up, I still have a few days to try to fix it.
In the end, these two miniatures are better than the last humanoid Bones I tried to paint. There are more hard details on the figures and the faces aren’t just blank… things. The blonde hair turned out okay; I liked the way it started out, but the more I worked on it, the worse it got. I salvaged it in the end, I think. I did like the way the gem in Lysette’s staff came out, though. It doesn’t show quite as nicely in the pictures as it does in person. I painted over the orange color with an iridescent white paint and the effect under light is really nice. It photographs horribly, though. I think I need to dry brush a lighter blue on the dragon wings on the Dragonman’s shield, too.
I’m going to work on some townsfolk miniatures, next, I think, as well as finish up some metal minis I have sitting around.