Wednesday, August 3, 2011

GenCon 2011: Day 1 - Arrival

GenCon Indy: The Best Four Days of Gaming
It's been awhile. Since I've written here, that is. GenCon gives me another opportunity to get back to writing. Today my sons and I traveled from our comfortable home to the beautiful city of Indianapolis for GenCon 2011. The ride was an uneventful 4 hours. Checking in, we head to get in line to pick up our badges. After a long game of follow-the-leader we get our badges, generic tickets and swag. Now it was time to get dinner.

This is where things really took off. Connecting with Daniel Perez, the boys and I head to Scotty's Brewhouse. Dinner was yummy and the beer was delicious, but the real high point was sitting down to a meal with Daniel. It was a great meal and wonderful company. This was why I wanted to come to Indy: to see the friends that I Tweet and email and Facebook with all year. Even though I didn't get any gaming done today, it was a win.

Follow Your Bliss,

Thursday, June 23, 2011

More Free RPG Day Digital Goodness

DCC Free RPG Day Adventure Starter Cover
Building on my post from yesterday (yeah, two days in a row, I know right?) Jayson Peters in his blog, Nerdvana, has started compiling links to other Free RPG Day digital downloads. Check out his post so see what other goodies are to be had for your RPG playing pleasure.


Follow Your Bliss,

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Dragon Age RPG Quickstart Guide PDF is here!

Dragon Age RPG Quickstart Guide PDF
This short post is to let folks know two things: 1. I'm still around and kickin', and 2. the Dragon Age RPG Quickstart Guide PDF (Green Ronin Publishing) is available for download! Of late I've been a big fan of the Dragon Age RPG, so I was quite disappointed when none of my FLGS were participating in Free RPG Day 2011. I'm very thankful that the powers that be at Green Ronin have made this available for free download.

I've you've wanted to check out the game, but not ready to put forth the cash to pick up Set 1 box, here is your chance to take the game for a test drive. It includes background information, pre-generated characters and a short adventure. Even if you've never played the computer or console DA game, I recommend you pick this up. Want more reason? Check out this review of the quickstart on RPG.Net.


Follow Your Bliss,

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


Loot, the gaming deal-a-day website
A quick post to update any readers about a new link in the sidebar of this site: Loot! Loot is a deal-a-day website that offers big discounts on games and gaming related products. If you're you're familiar with LivingSocial or Groupon then this is nothing new to you. If want to find out more, check out the FAQ on the Loot website or sign up to receive daily emails of the special deals. Happy shopping.


Follow Your Bliss,

Monday, March 14, 2011

BASHCon XXVI - Day 2 Saturday Afternoon

Dogs in the Vineyard
Cover illustration by Drew Baker
After a great start to the day it was time to take a quick lunch break. I wandered over to The Phoenician (also the name of the hotel I checked out of is morning before sitting on the flight home to type this recounting of my convention experience), a Greek restaurant in the Univerity of Toledo's Student Union. I ordered coffee and a gyro sandwich and settled down to look through the convention catalogue to see if I could sneak in another game before my late afternoon session of Dogs in the Vineyard.

I may have mentioned before that the catalog was printed with morning events listed chronologically after the afternoon and evening events. Also many of the Pathfinder events were double-listed. This made it a little challenging to see what was available.

Originally I had signed up for an all-afternoon session of Gamma World (run by one of the players from my Friday night game of Zombies!!!! Small world). When I realized there was a game of Dogs being offered, I changed my plans since the time for the two games conflicted. Unfortunately there were no other games that would fit between lunch and my 4:00 PM game of Dogs, so I had some time to kill.

After finishing my meal with some rice pudding, I wandered over to the Gamma World game to watch for a bit. It was fun to watch, but as I feared it was a might bit too silly for me. I felt I made a wise choice in opting for Dogs, given I wanted some serious RP (I had my share of Gamma World silliness in college when I rolled up a hyper-intelligent cat with opposable thumbs that rode a motorcycle; I love the game, but was looking for a different flavor of play at that moment).

As time neared, I wandered over to the table for Dogs and waited. There was a sign on the table indicating that this was the right place, but no GM. Eventually the GM, Joshua LH Burnett sat down.

Joshua was concerned that I was the only player to show up so far. We waited a bit and then he checked in with registration to learn I was, in fact, the only player to purchase a ticket for the game. I guess games about teenage Mormons with guns in the Mythic Old West are not very popular in Toledo.

We made the best of it. We chatted for a while and I finally put 2 and 2 together. Joshua is part of Hex Games who produce QAGS; I was familiar with them from the All Games Considered podcast. I also learned that Joshua had run his game, Leopard Women of Venus, on Friday night. I was disappointed for having missed it. To make a small world even smaller, Joshua had been neighbor to and gamed with a former gaming friend of mine, Bradley McDevitt, long-time RPG artist and game designer. Small freakin' world indeed.

After chatting for a bit I asked if I could at least make a character for the game. Joshua enthusiastically led me through the organic process of creating my first Dog, Josiah . This was very exciting; I loved the way character generation flowed. To top it off, the process ended with a one-on-one RP that illustrated the resolution mechanics of the game (I had to perform a baby naming ceremony, and before you giggle at the notion, it was one of the coolest RP scenes in my recent history, very close to some recent play in an online Skype game of The Shadow of Yesterday).

While the initiation scene was fun it didn't really bring to light the escalation mechanics that I've heard so much about in Dogs. I asked Joshua if we could do one more scene to help me understand it better. He suggested that I had caught another Dog talking smack to a the mother of the baby I just named.

All I can say is WOW! Not only did the conflict escalate from words to fist to guns, but this scene brought so much into play and rooted Josiah firmly in the fiction being created. What a radical counter point to the morning's Pathfinder play. Note, I'm not saying one was better than the other; both were fun in their own way, but Dogs was certainly the more intense of the two. I can only imagine what a full game session would be like.

We ended the scene and I thanked Joshua for a great introduction to Dogs. I told him about the two games I was running on Sunday and he was very excited to play in the Dresden Files RPG. I looked forward to being able to run a game for him and headed home, giddy with a full day of gaming under my belt.

Follow your bliss,

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, March 11, 2011

BASHCon XXVI - Day 2 Saturday Morning

Pathfinder Oracle, Al-Haresh
Character sheet and mini
Saturday morning started bright and early. I grabbed a hot mocha at The Flying Joe and headed north to the University of Toledo's Student Union. There was very little traffic on the road and I made it to the convention hall with plenty of time to spare. My tickets already in hand, I waited patiently by the doors to the hall as the early morning registration dance got under way. Once the doors opened I looked up the table for my event and made way there to sit down for my first play of the day: Pathfinder Society Organized Play (PSOP).

I should take a moment to note that PSOP was the de facto game at BASHCon this year. Easily 60+% of all RPG events offered at the con were PSOP (this is my best estimate, I did not count all the events in the catalog, but I feel that I'm close). The strong showing was the result of a very well organized group out of Detroit, MI (about an hour north from Toledo).

Our GM was Douglas Miles, Venture-Captain for Detroit, MI, and he was running the introductory adventure Master of the Fallen Fortress. Before getting too deep into this, I am not reviewing the module, nor relating the specific aspects of the game. Rather, I'm focusing on my impressions, reactions and personal experiences of this event. This module was to serve as an entryway into PSOP.

I had no character to play as I do not own any of the Pathfinder books; I spoke with Doug about pregen options. He gave me several choices from all the different types of characters. Since no one else had checked in yet for me to see what roles were not covered I opted for the more support-oriented Oracle (I never mind playing Cleric-types, my first AD&D character was a Cleric).

Doug handed me the pre-printed character sheet and I looked it over. I immediately fell in love with the concept of the character: an Oracle of flame whose clouded vision only allowed her to see clearly up to 30 ft. I envisioned her staring into the flames to enter a trance-like state, hearing whispered wisdom in the crackle, hiss and pop of the fire; vibrant images dancing in the flames. I dubbed her Al-Haresh and was set to go.

The character sheet had almost everything I needed to play. I borrowed the core rule book to verify and note spell effect and ranges. I was pleased to see that there was not a lot a difference from the divine spells I was familiar with in D&D 3.5. What I did find surprising was that all 0 level spells were at-will; no limit on the number of times they could be cast. How sweet was that?

For those that may not know, the Oracle is to the Cleric what the Sorcerer is to the Wizard (can you tell I'm getting ready to take the GRE?). Meaning, I did not have to prepare my spells for the day, but instead chose what to cast dynamically during play from a short list of known spells. Sweet. Plus one of my patron deities of the flame was Asmodeus. Wicked!

The other players started showing up. There was a husband & wife, a mother & son, as well as another adult male besides myself. We had a nice mix of fighting, spell casting, support and specialty classes, in other words, a balanced party. The reason for our characters to be adventuring together? We all happened to show up at the base of the fallen fortress on the same day at the same time. That worked for this con game.

The fortress was a vertical dungeon that had to be navigated (what is it with me and vertical dungeons lately?). Tactically speaking, the party worked well together as they moved from room to room, floor to floor. Resources were used wisely to reach the final encounter at the top (the Master). Nothing was particularly surprising or terribly challenging. The group knew when to run and when to fight. Plans were made and executed as much as a little impromptu action/reaction. But the tactical stuff wasn't all that was going on.

Everybody at the table brought the role-play. While there was no rewards for RP, no real mechanical incentive for this to be anything more than a tactical exercise, everybody stepped it up. There was a chivalrous and chauvinistic male cavalier trying to impress and protect the female members of the party, most of whom were openly annoyed. Al-Haresh stayed closed to the rogue and let him lead her through the fortress. What it boils down to is that it was really fun.

The party survived the adventure and were able to free a Pathfinder Society member who sponsored each character's application to the society. This is where the organized play stuff kicked in. Each character had to choose a faction (I chose Osirian) and fill out the paperwork for the adventure. I've yet to go online and create my account, but I will probably do so soon. It'd be nice to take this character with me to GenCon.

I was once a member of the RPGA, but never played in tournaments or conventions; it always seemed like too much work. PSOP seems different, easier. My boys still like playing D&D 3.5 and Pathfinder and its organized play may give us access to a wider venue of play.

All in all, a great start to the day! Next time, I grab lunch and kill some time until Dogs in the Vineyard.

Follow your bliss,

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Master of the Fallen Fortress
Map by Doug Miles
PS. The homemade maps Doug used for this adventure were top notch and really added to the experience. See the included photo.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

BASHCon XXVI - Day 1 Friday Night

Zombies!!! Board Game
(that's me in the red)
After registering for my badge and patiently waiting for the day to arrive, it was finally time to go to my first BASHCon! I was all set to go enjoy a night of gaming, but poor planning on my part reduced the amount of playable time I had available to me.

Lesson learned: next year take a half-day off work and don't plan a haircut for opening night so I can get there when the doors open. Because of my inept calendar skills I missed an opportunity to play in a short session of Spirit of the Century and a game of Leopard Women of Venus (the latter run, I later learned, by Joshua LH Burnett of Hex Games).

It was after 8 PM by the time I arrived on campus, parked and made my way to the Student Union. There I found the chaos that was convention registration. A confusing 20 minutes later I was inside the con. (No need to beat a dead horse here, suffice it to say that things could have run more smoothly.)

My first task was to walk the dealer's area which had a nice selection of gaming related and ancillary items for sale. Next I checked out Santa's Toy Box, which was a board game rental area. This held promise if I had some downtime.

Downtime? Heck, I planned to cram every moment of gaming I could into this weekend. As it was approaching 9 PM (what can I say, I take my time when checking things out) I had to decide what to do for the evening.

There was a game of Zombies!!! with an open seat so I got my ticket (free thanks to my Special badge) and sat down to play. I was joined by three college students who had played a marathon edition of the game once before using ALL THE EXPANSIONS (I later learned this was run by Joshua's wife, Ivy; Toledo is a small world). I was a newbie to the game and after a quick explanation of the rules we were off and running.

This game was as much fun as I heard it would be. The playful banter around the table certainly helped. Time flew by and the helipad finally made it's appearance. Since this was part of the competitive board game track, (zombie) bodies started piling up in order to determine a winner. And then the unexpected happened: the lights went out!

Talk about timing! We thought this was the school's way of saying,"Wrap up your games and go home, it's 11 PM!" but the truth of the matter was the power had really been cut to our building due to the weather; we were running on emergency power.

This didn't slow us down. We kept on playing by cellphone light. That is, until security came around to bodily escort us out of the building. Zombies were hurriedly counted, a winner determined (I think I came in last), and we quickly gathered the game pieces together before heading into the cold, dark night.

Best. First. BASHCon. Ever.

Follow your bliss,

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad (let's see if it can win its way back into the good graces of my heart)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

BASHCon XXVI - Intro

Official BASHCon XXVI Logo
Well, I had spent most of my flight from Detroit to Phoenix working on a blog post to introduce the tales of my first BASHCon, but in uploading it from my iPad to the interwebs it evaporated into thin air. I'm a little bitter about this; it was fun and pithy and I don't know that I can recreate it (especially now that I've had a large Sake with dinner). This is the first time BlogPress has failed me and so, I'm a little down.

But my second part made it up to Blogger. So, instead of refining my first two parts and possibly starting a third, I'm forced to recreate my introduction to my weekend at BASHCon. During that weekend, I played a board game (Zombies!!!), an organized play event (Pathfinder Society), was introduced to a Story Game that should have been on my "Must Play" list (Dogs in the Vineyard), made a new acquaintance (Joshua Burnett from Hex Games), run my first convention game (Dresden Files RPG Casefile: Neutral Grounds) and caught up with podcasting acquaintance (Ben Balestra from All Games Considered). All in all a fun time was had.

But before I could get there, I had to register for my badge. I opted for the "Special Weekend Badge" which included a commemorative D6 (and what gamer wouldn't want that for swag?). Unfortunately the dice did not arrive in time so every Special Badge holder got instead an official BASHCon t-shirt (pictured). Not bad. It also got me $1 discount on all events. Since most events only cost $1, there was no additional charge to play, FTW!

In my original post I had digressed into the annoyances of the registration system used by UT-BASH for this event, but I'm too tired now to go into it. Maybe if you see me at GenCon and buy me a beer I'll relate the tale. Next time, BASHCon begins with opening night activities.


Follow Your Bliss,

- Definitely NOT posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, February 11, 2011

Fire and Forget

I was struck by a thought as I was driving home last night (no one was hurt and I was able to maintain control of my vehicle). I was thinking about the AGE system used in the Dragon Age Dark Fantasy Roleplaying Game and how it felt like an Old School game. While I haven't played it yet, what I've read so far suggests this to be true, except for one thing: spell casting.
"Helpless Pieces of the Game he Plays"
Adelaide Hanscom [Public domain],
via Wikimedia Commons

DARPG uses a mana point (MP) system for casting spells. Mages have an allotment of MPs to spend on the casting of each spell. This is a dynamic an free form system that plays very much like a video game: pick a spell and spend your MPs, keep casting until you run out of MPs, rest to recover MPs, repeat. I've watched my son do this when he plays a spell-casting character in World of Warcraft.

But it doesn't feel Old School enough for me. I come from the "fire and forget" school of D&D and think that is a perfectly natural way for magic to work, especially if you've read Jack Vance's Dying Earth series. So, I began a little thought experiment as I drove: could you use the AGE system to mimic the F&F approach to magic.

My first thought was to have the mage characters spend their MPs each day "memorizing" spells. I think the number of MPs might need to change a little bit and stress from armor also has to be taken into account. I haven't been able to allot much time to this thought exercise so here is my first pass:

Learning Spells
At level 1 a mage has learned Magic + 3 spells. These spells are recorded in the mage's spellbook. A mage may only have learned (Magic * 2) + Level spells. The exception to this are the spells learned at level 1. For Example: a mage with Magic 0 will have learned 3 spells at level 1; if the mage does not raise his Magic, he may not learn another spell until he has achieved level 4 ( (0 * 2) + 4).

A mage can learn any spell he comes upon by making a successful Learning Roll: Cunning (Arcane Lore) vs a TN 10 + MP Cost of spell. For spells with variable MP, use the lowest value in the range.

Memory Points
Memory points (MPs) represent a mage's mental capacity when it come to holding the chaotic energy of spells in their mind. A mage has trained their mind to act as a receptacle for the formulaic spells that are used to unleash magical effects. The mage's mind can only contain so much chaotic energy at one time. These spells are imprinted into their mind and held ready until they are released by the mage to create the desired effect, casting the spell. After the energy is released, that spell is "forgotten" and cannot be cast again until the mage has "re-memorized" it. A mage can memorize the same spell effect multiple times, provide the mage has sufficient MPs to do so.

A level 1 mage starts the game with memory points equal to 10 + (Magic * 2) and adds Magic * 2 more every time he gains a level. Apply changes to Magic before calculating MPs gained for a new level. MPs gained for previous levels are not recalculated when Magic is raised, it only affects MPs gained going forward in levels.

Powerful mages can hold many more spells at the ready in their mind than a novice. Each spell has a cost associated in MPs which must be paid when the spell is memorized. A mage must be wise and prudent when selecting which spells to memorize for the day.

Preparing Spells
Mages store their spells in written form in their spellbooks. Each time a mage wishes to prepare a spell for casting they must sit in study with the spell, memorizing the formula and imprinting its pattern into their mind. This act of memorizing the spell prepares it for later casting. The time it takes to memorize a spell is equal to 15 minutes per MP cost for the spell. For example, Arcane Bolt, MP Cost 2, will take 30 minutes to prepare.

Spells and Armor
Mages can cast spells while wearing armor, although the strain of such an action can interfere with the spell casting. Use the strain listed in the Casting in Armor table as a penalty on the Casting Roll.

Regaining Memory Points
Mages regain MPs by resting. A full 8 hours of rest are required for a mage to regain all spent memory points. If a mage still holds un-cast, memorized spells in their mind, the mage can choose to "forget" any or all of those spells at this time to free up MPs to be used toward preparing more or different spells. The time it takes to safely expend the memorized spell is 15 minutes no matter how many MPs were originally used in preparing the spell.

Spellbooks are large bound tomes used to store the spells the mages has learned. Spellbooks come in various shapes and sizes. A blank spellbook cost 75 sp and can hold up to 10 spells as well as copious mundane notes. Ink used to record the spell in the spellbook cost 10 sp per MP cost of spell.


Follow Your Bliss,

Monday, February 7, 2011

It's official

I'll be running my first two con games (ever) at BASHCon XXVI this year. My two events are on Sunday:

I'm very excited to be running these games locally and invite any readers attending BASHCon to stop by and say "hi" even if you are not planning on playing in either of these two events.

I'm still going over the list of other events but look forward to playing some Pathfinder and Dogs in the Vineyard as well as checking out some board games. I'll be sure to follow up the event with at least one post relating my exploits.


Follow Your Bliss,

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Cape: Origins

So, another episode of The Cape and another Twitterfest; the tweets were flying just as fast and as varied as the first night. My completely unscientific assessment of responses breaks down the Tweets into several types: loved it, hated it, found it hilarious. It felt like most of the Tweets found the show lame and were quickly looking for something else to watch.
From The Cape web comic

A fair percentage of Tweets were comparing The Cape to other superheroes and finding the show lacking in comparison. (As an aside, many folks were comparing the episode's villain to Gambit after he dispatches a handful of goons with playing cards. Come on people, haven't you ever heard of Bullseye?!) I thought I'd take a look at how The Cape stacks up against the hero he seems most often compared to: The Batman. (Although, one person posted an interesting comment about The Cape being the opposite of the original Robin - Dick Greyson going from living with the circus to being a superhero and the cape when from cop to living with the circus)

There is a lot of ground to cover here, so it'll take more than one post. This time around I want to start with their origins. The Batman's origin has been modified and updated over the years, but I'll try to stick to the most basic elements. Bruce Wayne stepped on the road that led to him becoming The Batman when he watched his parents murdered in cold blood and was unable to stop it. He set out to seek his revenge on the criminals that made living in Gotham a dangerous proposition. He spent years gaining the skills and the means to get his revenge. He adopted the image of the bat to strike fear in to the cowardly lot of criminals that lived in his city.

Breaking it down, Bruce had his family ripped away from him and made a choice to seek revenge for this horrible crime. He trained his body and mind to be able to attain his goal. He chose to embody a symbol to strike fear into his enemies. Since he can never bring his family back, it could be argued that his mission of revenge will never be fulfilled.

Vince Faraday was framed for the crimes of the master criminal Chess and in an act of violence was seemingly killed. Having survived Vince looked for a way to get back at the criminal that did this to him. He found a tool (the cape) and trained to be ready for his mission of revenge. He adopted the symbol of a comic book hero that was important to his son, Tripp. In this way, Vince looks to bring hope to his son.

So breaking this down, Vince is torn from his family and kept apart from them to ensure their safety. He seeks revenge on his attacker in hopes that he can one day be reunited with his loved ones. He is already well trained as police office and decorated military personnel, but seeks to improve his existing skills and add more skills to his arsenal. Vince adopts the comic book hero persona as a symbol of hope. His mission has a goal which he could bring to fruition and allow him to hang up his cape.

While there are similarities, these are certainly two different heroes. I would say they come from the same archetype but cast very different shadows. Both were victims of a violent act, both chose to wear the mask and train to become a force of vengeance. The Batman uses fear and intimidation on the weak-willed criminals in Gotham to be the boogie-man that they dread. While The Cape is not above using fear and intimidation on those he hunts (hanging a lackey off a bridge by his foot and threatening to drop him on the street below), he still shines as a symbol of hope for his son (talking with his son on the rooftop to encourage him to always act with honor), and city at large.

And what father doesn't want to be seen as superhero in his son's eyes.

Follow your bliss,

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

So many games

Last night as I got ready to watch The Cape, I was putting my books and games back on their shelves. A recent flood on New Years Day in my basement caused me to have to relocate my books into boxes and last night was the first chance to apply some order to the chaos. What I realized as I went through this process is that I have a ton of RPGs, most of which I have never played.
Role-playing games

Many of these books I purchased with the intention of playing, but some were purely for the curiosity of seeing how the game worked. Naturally this got me thinking about all the games I'd love to play if I had the time.

I decided the only way to find the time was to make the time. Daniel Perez's words about copping out on my New Year's resolutions are still ringing in my ears. First I'll list what I'm currently playing and then the games I'd like to play this year followed by my all-time wish list.

Playing now:

Want to play this year:

  • Dragon Age RPG (Player/GM) - I've been bitten by the Dragon Age bug and am itching to try this one. I will get a chance to play with Daniel in a play-by-post game, but I'd love to play/GM this at the table.
  • ICONS (GM) - I'm a fan of superhero RPGs. This one was recommended by Daniel and seems like it would be a good fit for what I like out of a game.
  • Polaris - I've been wanting to play this game for at least two years now, so this is my year to make it happen.
  • Kingdom of Nothing (GM) - I've committed to running this game at conventions this year and very excited about it.
  • Mortal Coil (GM) - I love the system but have never seen it in action in a long running time frame. I'd love to see this happen this year.
  • Burning Wheel (Player) - I've played Mouse Guard and that makes me want to explore the original.
  • Mythender (Player) - I've been reading about Ryan's game for a while now, I'd love to give it a spin. Who knows, GenCon?
  • A Penny For My Thoughts - I played an early play-test version, but have not played the final release. I think this would be a good game for my wife and I to play with another couple.
  • Breaking the Ice - I've been wanting to play this game with my wife, so I will push to do it this year.

Dream List of games to play:

  • AD&D T1-4, A1-4, GDQ (GM) - I have always wanted to run this classic series of modules using the Advanced Dungeon & Dragon 1st edition rules. Their called classics for a reason.
  • AD&D DL1-12 (GM) - For similar reasons I have always wanted to run the original Dragonlance modules. I'd be tempted to run them using the 3.5 edition rules, but this is my Dream List of games to play so AD&D 1e it is.
  • Thieves World, Lankhmar, Wild Cards (Player/GM) - These classic settings have been realized in various rule-sets. I'd love to have the time to explore them.
  • Mage: The Ascension (GM/Player) - I've talked about why I love this game, I'd love to get back to it some day.
  • Amber Diceless (Player) - I'm fascinated with the system, but have never read the original novels. I'd like to explore them someday.
  • Call of Cthullu (Player/GM) - Do I need a reason?
  • Mutant City Blues/Trail of Cthullu (Player/GM) - I've read, but never played, the games of the GUMSHOE system. I've love to explore them.

That should do it for now. Now I have a list to work off of when someone says, what do you want to play.


Follow Your Bliss,

Friday, January 14, 2011

An Experiment: The Cape

Sunday night, January 9, 2011, I rushed home from a game of D&D Essentials so that I could catch the premier of The Cape on NBC. It was crucial that I watch it as it aired as that was one of the parameters of this little experiment. As the show started, I logged into Twitter on my iPhone and did a search on the show's hashtag: #TheCape. That's when things got interesting.

I watched the show unfold as I monitored the comments flying by on Twitter. I commented as well, replied to some and in general, enjoyed the show and experience of participating in this national conversation over the ether. It was a very interesting experience, kinda like I was sitting in the world's biggest living room as I watched the show.

Now, the comments were generally very disparaging; it was clear that most of the Tweets had little nice to say about the show. I rather enjoyed the pilot episodes. I think I'm going take a few posts and unpack that last statement, as I can't put my finger on why that is.

I'll start by saying that I think one of the impacts on the reaction to the show had to do with expectations. From the Tweets it was clear that some folks were hoping for another Heroes; The Cape is not Heroes. Some folks seemed to be expecting a Batman Begins type of show. I haven't seen that movie yet so I can't speak to that. Some folks seemed to be expecting a higher level of "realism" than the show was offering; they were definitely disappointed.

I came into the show little as possible. I watched the trailers, well crafted gems designed with picture-perfect clips of action and mayhem and just enough of Summer Glau to want you coming back for more. I expected action and mayhem, but the thing that caught me, the thing that made me want to watch this show was all about why Vince Faraday, played by David Lyons, would put on a mask and do battle at risk of life and limb: to protect his family and become a symbol of hope for his son.

IMHO, that is pure gold, as far as super-heroic origins go.

I should probably mention that I love superhero comics. That certainly helped with my expectations. So this isn't really a review of the show. If someone asked me how it was I'd say, "It was good, I'd watch it again." I don't get the same sense of "wow, cool" I got when first watching Heroes a few years ago. But I'll keep watching to see what becomes of the show. Judging by the general reaction on Twitter, there may not be a lot of hope for this show's longevity, but I'll watch it while I can.

Like I said, I think I'll be unpacking this one for a little while at least. If you're interested, feel free to check back.

Follow Your Bliss,

PS. Join me on Twitter @CinderellaManJJ Monday, January 17, 2011 to join in on The Cape Tweeting. And follow the show @NBCTheCape as well if you are so inclined.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Jumping Geomorphs

Recently, while surfing the Internet when I should have been working, I discovered a very cool Geomorph Mapping Project by Dyson Logos on his A character for every game blog. I'm not certain what brought me there, but it was a nice bit of serendipity.
Dyson's Geomorph 5-e

A Geomorph, in RPG terms, is a unique map segment that interlocks with other, similarly designed map segments. This allows for the easy creation of rather elaborate dungeons and town for exploration with your favorite old school fantasy game.

Now, Dyson's maps are beautiful vignettes in and of themselves. Take them and connect them up and you have expansive realms for your party to delve. Dyson also writes on his favorite subject (and mine): RPGs. Be sure to check out his other project, and original focus of his blog, creating 2 characters for each of the over 200 RPGs he owns.

But my fun didn't stop there. Linked from Dyson's Geomorph page I found David Millar's Morph Mapper. This fun web app take's David's and Dyson's maps, along with several other contributors, and puts them together in a random fashion to create endless maps for your dungeon delving pleasure.

The Mapper is a work in progress, but David seems dedicated to making it the best that it can be. In fact, when I posted a suggestion for a possible feature, David soon replied that he had a similar thought in mind.

With so many possibilities it makes me want to print some off, stock them with monsters of all varieties and let my players loose to see how far they can get.

Follow your bliss,

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Dragon Age RPG

@Highmoon and @ newbiedm have been giving lots of love to the Dragon Age RPG (DARPG), from Green Ronin, on Twitter. So much so that I contacted my FLGS to order me the boxed set. When these guys recommend a game, I can't help but to listen. If you are at all curious about DARPG, then check out their new blog, Dragon Age Oracle, devoted to the game (and follow the DAO blog on Twitter as well).


Follow Your Bliss,

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

GMing Aspects: Dresden Files RPG

DM Samuel wrote a great post looking at what he called his "speedbump" when trying to GM games of Dresden Files RPG (DFRPG) for his players. He attributes his problem to years of DMing D&D. I get exactly where he's coming from and feel much the same way. I thought I'd continue the discussion here.

The Dresden Files Roleplaying Game cover
Assessment vs Declaration
First I wanted to make a minor clarification regarding mechanics for any of those unfamiliar with the FATE system. DM Samuel uses the term Declaration as the act performed by the player to add story elements to the game. I want to expand the idea by adding the game term Assessment as an game element for further exploration.

Assessment is an application of a successful skill roll to discover an existing Aspect, whether the Aspect is on an NPC, scene or object. This differs from a Declaration in the fact the GM needs to identify specific Aspects before-hand. Declared Aspects need not be previously established by the GM, publicly or privately.

Skills vs Aspects
Building off this, it is important to note that skills are equally important to performing these two functions. a character good at Driving may be able to Assess any modifications performed on a vehicle or Declare a potential problem on the car that is chasing them. The fact that the character was "Born with a wrench in his hand" will certainly help make those rolls successful.

DM Samuel does a great job discussing the beauty of Aspects and their elegant nature, so no need to repeat what he said. I think they're the bee's knees of the FATE system, but they do require a shift in thinking when approaching play, especially if your experience has been heavily GM-centric (regardless of which side of the screen you were on).

Player Empowerment vs GM Preparation
The true art to using Aspects falls on both the player and the GM. DM Samuel was focusing on his role as GM, but some of the weight is squarely on player's shoulders.

The player needs to be aware of what their skills can do. Many skills grant players opportunities to make Assessments and Declarations. Players should be very familiar with all the Trappings of their skills. Knowing what the skills allow is just the beginning, they also need to watch for opportunities in play to use those skills to make Assessments and Declarations.

For the GM, the previous paragraph also applies; you have to know what the skills can do so you can support your players as they Assess and Declare. Even better is to create scenes that present players with opportunities to use those skills. DFRPG makes it easy to plan for in this respect given the skills "pyramid": a definite hierarchy of skills rated most skilled to least skilled. Plan for Assessments from the character's highest ranked skill, give them a chance to use those skills and build familiarity with this element of the game. I guarantee if they get a taste of it they will want more.

DM Samuel touched upon the idea that the GM has to prepare fewer details because the players can fill in the details that are important to them using Declarations. I think the preparation has to be focused in a different way. A certain amount of flexibility is required to GM DFRPG. Too rigid a setting or story will not allow players (and their characters) the freedom to explore and contribute.

As far as specific advice on how a GM can do this I have two "don'ts":

  • Don't plan for every contingency. Feel free to establish scenes that have no clear resolution. If the players have to break into the villain's lair, loosely sketch possible opposition and let the players use their Skills to Declare some Aspects on the scene. 
  • Don't be afraid to say "yes" to your player's declarations.

I'm sure I'm missing some points here; my experience running DFRPG almost matches DM Samuel's exactly. I look forward to learning more of the nuances in the game as time goes on and will plan to share what I learn here.

Follow your bliss,

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Monday, January 10, 2011

Microlite75 is here and it's FREE

Do you enjoy old school style games? Do you prefer your your RPGs to focus on playability and not padding page count? Then Microlite75 may be the game for you. Check it out for yourself and take it out for a spin.

Follow your bliss,

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Future so bright: 2011

I've been avoiding this blog post. I'm not good at setting goals. That's not true; I'm great at setting goals. Following through? Not so much. So I did what I always do to when I want to avoid something: I read. I could call it "research" since I was reading many posts by other bloggers about New Year's resolutions and goals, but let's call it for what it is: avoiding a troublesome task.

I did enjoy the blogs I read; they were many and varied. Some tackled the New Year with the ferocity of a pit bull, others were calm and serene in their approach. And none helped me figure out what I wanted to do. (However, I did find a more convenient way to keep up on blogs using Twitter and Instapaper for the iPad.)

See, I've been struggling with what to do with this blog. I haven't really been posting lately which really makes me wonder why I'm doing it at all. At first I thought I had something to say, but my voice and focus was never very clear. I'm not an authority on gaming, I can only speak from experience.

Then I thought it was to stay in touch with the friends I met through podcasting. Well, Twitter seems better suited to that. The blog did start some dialogue with others on the interwebs, but it wasn't quite what I was looking for.

I generally have more ideas then I have the time to follow up on and discipline is not my strong suit; OCD is which makes writing a post take twice as long as it should. Family, work and other commitments are all making their demands known.

And then it hits me while I'm typing that last paragraph: this blog is my thing. It is more personal than almost anything else it do. I loves me some RPGs and gaming. I love talking about them, playing them, designing them and reading them. I'm not writing this for anybody but me.

So, no resolutions, no goals - it just is. Chaotic, eclectic and all over the place: that's me.

Follow your bliss,

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad