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