Monthly Archives: July 2017

Gary Gygax Day

Today is Gary Gygax Day.

dd basic-boxThe influence he had on my life is difficult to quantify. I can pretty much attribute my interest in fantasy to a little game he created, Dungeons & Dragons. From that, sprang a love of writing. Through the games I played, I acquired the vast majority of my friends. From D&D, I cultivated a greater interest in science-fiction than I already had.

It’s not inaccurate to say with D&D and the influences and opportunities it brought, my life would be unrecognizable.

I had the great fortune of meeting him in 2008 (I think) at the last Gen Con he was able to attend. I don’t remember if I told him what a far-reaching influence his game had on my life, but I was sure to tell his son, Luke, whom I’ve gotten to know over the last several years. One of his other sons, Ernie, sold me my very first issue of Knights of the Dinner Table magazine (issue 10) in the ’90s in a game shop owned by Margaret Weis (co-author of many Dragonlance novels). Through that, I was introduced to the Blackburns, both very fine people in their own right.

And on it goes.

Thanks, Gary.

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5th Ed. Spelljammer – The Wand of Orcus, session 25

After determining that they were, in fact, on in a pocket dimension, the crew resigned themselves to having to climb back down through the tower to return to the Rock of Bral with the shaft. They took a moment to prepare themselves, then re-entered the storage room at the top of the tower were Seravos laired. They found several valuable items to take with them, and then cast several invisibility spells before descending into the combat zone.

 

Undead continued to battle with Seravos’s golems, so the crew was able to pass most of the fighting unseen. When they reached the bottom floor, the dead apprentice at the desk in the foyer had become ghoul food, so they quietly evolved a plan to deal with them. Unfortunately, they were not mere carrion-eating ghouls as one might encounter in a cemetery and Rune’s attempt to turn them failed.

 

They beat down the tough ghoul and exited the tower, Arcane Locking the door on their way out. On the city streets, no one seemed aware of what transpired in Seravos’s tower. The crew returned to the Laughing Beholder for an evening of drinks and carousing before boarding Sea of Stars.

 

As they made preparations to leave, another Nkosi approached the ship, looking for Captain Ra-Jareez. Suli-ban, Ra-Jareez’s cousin, was greatly amused to hear of the Nkosi’s misfortune in losing his ship and informed Ra-Jaeerz he was there to bring him home. After a brief discussion with the crew of Sea of Stars, Ra-Jareez made his choice: he would stay with his friends on the Sea of Stars until their task was done.

 

Boccob’s Barge

They set off to sail to Patria sphere and Eorôe to fulfill their obligation to the giants there. As they pass by the Tears of Selune, they discovered they would not have to seek long for the skull to complete the Wand of Orcus. A familiar hammership approached, Boccob’s Barge, it’s crew of undead drawn to the nearly completed artifact.

 

They readied themselves for battle…

Since I know what’s coming next and the hour was growing late, I ended the session a little early. It was either that, or stop in the middle of a combat (which suuuucks). In two weeks, we’re going to play a Middle Earth adventure to help one of my players play test the adventure he’s running for Cubicle 7 at Gen Con. Two weeks after that is Gen Con. Then, on September 1st, “The Wand of Orcus” will continue. It’s all climax from here on out; the campaign is nearing its close. Will the crew of Sea of Stars be able to reclaim Boccob’s Barge from the Ghoul King and his minions? Will they be able to resist the temptations of a reassembled Wand of Orcus? Will they be able to destroy it before the Demon Prince of Undead comes to claim it?

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5th Ed. Spelljammer – The Wand of Orcus, session 24


A few weeks later, upon returning to the Rock of Bral, Straxius sent Ra-Jareez, Sumner, and Ragnar out to hire a proper crew for Sea of Stars. Meanwhile, he and the rest of the officers decided to go to the Laughing Beholder to see if they could catch up to Seravos the Golden.

As they disembarked from their ship a messenger ran up to Straxius with a letter:

You pledged to aid us.
Dark forces conspire to break the shackles holding the World Serpent at bay.
We call upon you to fulfil your oath.
(It looks better in the stoney, runic-looking font I used on the actual note)

After a brief moment, they remembered the giants with whom they traded to acquire the crystal of ice for the Arcane, so long ago. Since they were already on the Rock of Bral where the man believed to be in possession of a piece of the Wand of Orcus was, they chose to retrieve it from him first, and then swing by Eorôe in Patria Sphere on the way to their next destination.

They hung around the Laughing Beholder for a bit as Rune tried to tell Luigi the Beholder a joke. After the joke Luigi declared he was changing the name of his bar to the Sad Beholder and all that was good in life was now gone. About then, a lithe, golden-haired elf walked in, ordered a drink and sat at a table, alone. Luigi confirmed it was Seravos the Golden.

One failed negotiation later (Seravos was not willing to part with any piece of his collection) and they began to develop a plan to acquire the piece of the wand through extra-legal means. Luigi counseled Straxius, telling him that they should not feel guilty if they needed to remove the evil object from Seravos’s possession; the elf was not troublemaker, per se, but neither was he a good person. They decided on a plan that would have Zinni scope out his home and potentially pilfer the wand’s shaft given the opportunity.

Seravos’s house was in a middle-class part of town, and appeared to be an unremarkable building on a street of row houses.  Through the windows, the interior looked dark and cluttered and Zinni was unable to find a back entrance. There was enough pedestrian traffic on the street that she didn’t feel comfortable picking the lock in broad starlight, so she returned to Straxius and the other officers.

They waited until night, then returned to Seravos’s house as a group. Before taking the step of breaking in, they decided to knock on the door. It swung open as they rapped upon it. Inside, the house was unlike its streetside appearance. It was much larger and round, more like a tower, than a humble single-story house.

From inside, the crew heard the sounds of battle. An apprentice lay slumped over a desk in the vestibule, a pool of blood spreading from his body and dripping onto the floor. They climbed the tower, dealing with both Seravos’s clockwork minions and the invading undead until they reached the top floor. A coffin and a corpse drained of blood gave away Seravos’s true nature, yet he was nowhere to be found. They did spy a hatch in the ceiling above a fallen ladder. They smashed the coffin and climbed.

On the roof, they found Seravos the Golden. Frothing with rage, he declare no one, not the crew of Sea of Stars, not the Ghoul King, NO ONE would have his prize. After a brief battle, the crew put the rampaging vampire down. Seravos tried to flee in his gaseous form, and Straxius summoned an air elemental to take the wispy vampire on a ride.

The shaft of the Wand of Orcus lay on the roof. They picked up the penultimate piece and pondered their next move…

This is really late because not only did I have a mad rush to get two books to the printer (Scars of the Sundering, book 3: Salvation and “Burble’s Big Day,” both of which will be available at Gen Con), but two author events back-to-back right after this game. I’m sure I left out details. Oh well, I think I got the gist of it and I’m sure if there is anything crucial missing, one of my players will chime in in the comments.

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Do you own any games you haven’t played?

During a recent conversation on Twitter, a question was asked: What RPGs do you own, but have never played? I literally could not answer that question in 140 characters. I came up with twenty-plus titles, depending on how you count.

So many games, so little time.

Games Owned, Never Played

The Strange
Gods of the Fall
Predation
Cypher System Core Rules

Are these one game, or three? Should I even count the Cypher System Core Rules? I’ve played Numenera, so it could be argued that it’s close enough and these don’t count. On the other hand, they’re each self-contained and have their own twists on the Cypher System rules.

Deadlands: Reloaded
Deadlands – Hell on Earth: Reloaded
Interface Zero 2.0
Hellfrost
I’ve played Savage Worlds, both in pulp games and in a Space: 1889 game. I even ran a Realms of Cthulhu adventure, but like with Cypher System,  I think all these variants have enough of a twist on the rules that they count a games in their own right.

Ryuutama
This would be a great game if I had kids or a group of friends really into Anime, or both. I’m still keeping it around because it’s so charming and well-done.

Feng Shui 2
Hong Kong Action Movie Fu! When I read this, I immediately thought of the ways I could essentially run a Shadowrun game with it, but without all the baggage of the Shadowrun system.

Toon
A classic… that I’ve never played. I like running wacky, off-the-wall stuff at conventions, though and I found these mint condition books at Half-Price Books for a steal, so I couldn’t afford NOT to buy them.

Atomic Highway
Mad Max meets Fallout! Seriously, if you ever read these rules, that’s exactly the vibe you get. The V8 system the game uses maps almost exactly to the SPECIAL system the Fallout CRPGs use and it’s easy enough to bolt-on perks, if you like. Plus, there’s a robust set of vehicle rules in case you want to die historic on Fury Road.

Coriolis
Middle-Eastern themed sci-fi with a heavy dose of spirtualism. It looks very cool and it lets the PCs configure their own ship. You could probably play a less gonzo/grimdark version of Rogue Trader with this with a bunch of mysticism on the side.

Mutant: Year Zero
This game reminded me of the settlement building portion of Fallout 4, but without the frustration of using a set-up that was not designed for a left-handed person to change the controls. Sorry, that’s a rant for another time. Post-apocalyptic goodness that’s more Fallout Shelter than Mad Max.

Achtung! Cthulhu
This has dual rules for Savage Worlds and Call of Cthulhu, which is why I didn’t put it up with the rest of the Savage Worlds stuff. It has a real “First Ten Minutes of the Hellboy Film” feel. Nazis, Eldritch Horrors, what’s not to like?

Pulp Cthulhu
Pulp action using the BRP rules (aka the same system Call of Cthulhu uses). You don’t even have to use the Mythos to do proper Indiana Jones-style pulp action/adventure with this game. It’s a close race between this and Hollow Earth Expedition for my preferred pulp game, though that may change once I play it (Savage Worlds does pulp well, too)

Shadowrun 5th Edition
Shadowrun is the setting I love most couple with a game system I like least. 10 – 15 years ago, I’d probably be all over it, but as I’ve gotten older, my interest in complex, fiddly system has diminished. I had hopes that 5th edition would reduce the complexity I grew to dread in 4th edition (which I played several times), but alas… DIS-A-PPOINTMENT!

Dragon Age
Fantasy Age
Green Ronin’s Age system intrigues me, but I’ve yet to run it. D&D 5E does everything I really want a fantasy game to do right now.

Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea
Pulp Fantasy (like the original Conan stories) meets AD&D, but with a more standardized system. Seems to be popular with the crowd that likes Old School, but wants bit more modern rules than a retro clone could provide.

The 77 Lost Worlds
I think this is the ONLY RPG my wife has played that I have no. James Ward playtested this at Gary Con for several years and she really enjoyed it. If I recall, it’s like a far-future sci-fi RPG where society has survived by building domed cities, each of which is themed, sort of like a theme park. So you might have the Medieval Europe dome over there and the Ancient Egyptian dome over here, along with 75 others.

Shadows of Esteren
This is a French horror-fantasy RPG I’ve been acquiring mostly because my wife loves the art and production values.

Star Trek Adventures
I have the PDF, but the print version is still en route. I’m going to count it anyway, even though I haven’t counted any other games I own solely on PDF.

Owned – Played once or twice, Back in The Day

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Forget the cartoon. Forget the films. This game is based on the Kevin Eastman comic. I played it once on a bus during a school trip. I remember having a lot of fun, but it is a Palladium game, so who knows if I could even get past the system now.

Top Secret, SI
I haven’t played this since the height of the Cold War. It’s the action/James Bondian version where the original Top Secret was more about the espionage. The new TSR is currently running a Kickstarter for a modern, third version (Top Secret: New World Order — written by the original Administrator, Merle Rasmussen!), which I’ve played the last two years at Gary Con (and I played the original Top Secret the previous two years at Gary Con, once with Merle, which is why it’s not listed here).

Marvel Super Heroes
I remember liking this more than it’s contemporary, DC Heroes. I’m still looking for that perfect Supers game that has rules I can grok along with enough inspiration within that I don’t have to wonder, WTF do I do this session that isn’t a variation of the last game? Maybe the Sentinels Comics RPG will do it for me. Of course, now you look at Aunt May’s stats (Feeble in just about everything) and you look at Marisa Tomei and have severe cognative dissonance.

Buck Rogers XXVc
AD&D 2nd edition if it was a pulp sci-fi game “based” on the Buck Rogers comics. The history of this game basically boils down to a cash grab by the then-owners of TSR since they also owned the Buck Rogers estate. No funny Mel Blanc-voiced robots or hawkmen here, but there was a heavy dose of transhumanism and solar system exploration. It was actually a really well-done game, as I recall.

Star Trek
I think making a character is the best part of this game. You can literally tell the story of a character’s entire Starfleet career during character creation (you’re supposed to stop when you get to the point at which your game starts). It’s really a solo game all to itself.

Doctor Who
I knew about The Doctor and Jelly Babies for decades before I actually saw the show, because of this game (not strictly true, I rented Pyramids of Mars on VHS from the base video store, but only had vague memories of it until I started watching the show in earnest sometimes during the 10th Doctor’s run). FASA really need some better quality control because the black & white photos used to illustrate this game are DARK.

Did this post need pictures? I feel like I should have tracked down box art for all of these games… but dang, that’s a lot of pictures and I only have so much time in the day!

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