My Awesome Gary Con X!

I had a packed Gary Con schedule compared to the prior two years. This was the first time I ran games. I ran 3 four hour games, and played in 4 games. Three were four hours and one 5+hours. Next year, I think I will run three games, but I won’t pack my schedule. I need more sleep.


Gangbusters – Stop The Flow
Two Kolchaks

Two of the three games I ran were Thursday. I started with Gang Busters. I had 8 pre-gens using the templates from +Mark Hunt’s version of Gangbusters. I proofread his current state of the rules from the fall, so I used his version with my edits. The pre-gens made character creation fast. Mark was going to play in my game, as I told him that I would run so he could play. Unfortunately, his dad went in the hospital and he couldn’t make it. I had no reception with my chrome book in the part of the hotel they  had us. Mark had hoped to do a Google Hangout for a Q&A after the game.

I never saw so many players botch a roll and then make the luck roll I gave them. At least, make the luck roll when it counted. Most lucks were under 30. I had 3 or 4 players in a row make their luck roll. The players were all law enforcement. One played a state trooper and played it so well, the others asked if he was a real officer, and he laughed as he was not in law enforcement. The characters found the source of the secret shipments of alcohol. I can’t give it away, or I can’t run that scenario. No characters died, but a couple got shot up really bad. One caught himself on fire, and another kept falling in the water. It was awesome how they played smart and rolled well, and foiled the bad guys. They got done an hour early.

Stars Without Number

In the afternoon, I ran Stars Without Number. I used the revised edition rules for the Kickstarter that delivered in January. I had never played it, so running was the first time I played it. I built 8 pre-gens. The first pre-gen took a long time as I was figuring out all the bits to do it, even with the spread on character generation. I did that to help me grasp all the pieces. I then used the quick character generation and did most of the rest in the time it took to do the first. The character sheet is a form-fillable PDF, so I have those NPCs for future use.

7 people signed up. It was fun to finally play in a game with +Forrest Aguire. All of the players made a lot of awesome rolls for skill checks. My usual poor rolls for the NPCs made things really easy for them. They also made smart decisions, and had a plan of action that was direct and simple and their good rolls compensated for how daring it was. Skilled players making smart choices, they also finished about 45 minutes early. One guy who made the most great rolls on skill checks saw me the next day and said that he didn’t make any rolls at his next game.


Against the Dwarfs
Against the Dwarfs

I had three games Friday. The first was AD&D in the morning. It was Against the Dwarfs by Bryan Skowera. This was the third of a series mirroring the Against the Giants modules. I played in the second one last year and had a blast. We made some poor tactical decisions early in the session and managed to luck into a plan that let us beat the bad guy.  I was able to play the Kobold cleric that I played last year, which was a lot of fun.

Friday afternoon, I played DCC with Brendan LaSalle. It was a hilarious scenario. We sang the songs of Electric Potato.

DCC with Brendan LaSalle
DCC with Brendan LaSalle


Lego Dice Tower by the Daughter of one of the players Friday night.
Lego Dice Tower by the Daughter of one of the players Friday night.

Friday night I was supposed to play in +Joseph Bloch’s game in his  AD&D Castle of the Mad Archmage setting. Unfortunately, Joe never showed. One of the people at the table found out he had told the con staff, but they never told us. I saw him the next day and totally understand why he did. For the con, I bought a rolling catalog case with a telescoping handle, so I could carry all of my stuff around the con and just pull it. I ended the con with no back or shoulder pain. It is a wise investment I will use at every con. Because I that, I had my Gamma World 1e book and my scenario that I would run the next day, so I offered to run it for the table. Two left for other things, and someone else joined in when they were walking by. It was a lot of fun for those who hadn’t played since back in the day, and those who had never played. It is very similar to Metamorphosis Alpha, so I kept asking what Radiation Resistance they had, instead of Constitution. They had fun, and I would end up playing other things with two of them later.


Gamma World
Gamma World

Saturday morning I ran Gamma World and all 8 showed up and I squeezed in two others, for ten total. I only had 8 pre-gens, so we had them quickly roll up characters for the two. I am glad I did that, they all had fun and it worked out to be a jam-packed and fun scenario. I used the additional secret papers with some background for the 8 pregens. I did not use those the night before as a secret, but told those players what the secrets were. Several of the players latched onto the information on their info paper. All I asked was that they not reveal it right away, which worked out great.

Player of the Character Tree made a sketch.
Player of the Character Tree made a sketch.

In less than 30 minutes they went to the weird hermit on the edge of town to get help with something. He figured out their issue was a dead battery, but he had no way to charge it. Then the gorilla with an electric shock attack like an electric eel said, “I’ll charge it!” I said, “That’s a great idea! How much damage does it do?” “Uh, 4d4.” “Great, roll 4d4!” I picked up 8d6 and rolled those once he gave me his total. “OK, the hermit falls over dead and you all take 15 points of damage!” I started laughing because the hermit had information for them. I was already short on sleep, which makes me either cranky or slap happy. I was so tickled, I laughed so hard I had tears. I’ve never had my players bring me to tears before. They eventually got on the right track and found what they were looking for and we ran out the clock on the session. They all had an excellent time.

The GM in Tears from Laughing at what the players just did.
The GM in Tears from Laughing at what the players just did.

After a long break in the afternoon, I had AD&D with +Michael Shorten. I should have taken a nap, but I play tested my card game. I ran out of steam and had to back out early. One of the players in the cancelled AD&D game who played in my Gamma World scenario the night before is an architect and offered to be out mapper. he did a rough sketch map, and you could tell he is used to working from verbal descriptions and his map was clear and easy to follow. He mapped at a scale we could place our minis. That was a really cool thing. He also lives in Grand Rapids, so we’ll probably game together occasionally.

AD&D with Michael Shorten – AKA Chgowiz
Full scale mapping by a real life architect.


Sunday morning, it was up bright an early to finally get to play Top Secret with Merle Rasmussen. It was the new Top Secret from the Kickstarter. It will finally ship from the US and European TSR warehouses this week or next. I liked how he randomized the map by each player building one section. It was serendipitous how my map worked to make an easy ending to a nearly out of control scenario, and we managed to get done early. I really like the simplicity of how the map works and how it randomizes the scenario.

That was a good thing, as I met Tom Wham going one way as I came down stairs, and he was not in a rush,  so I finally got my copy of Awful Green Things from Outer Space signed. I forgot to bring it to Gary Con 8, last year at Gary Con 9, it was always raining and since I wasn’t in the venue’s hotel, I didn’t want it getting wet. I also had him sign my Gamma World 1e, which he edited.

Top Secret: New World Order with Merle Rasmussen.
Player built map. Gets players involved and randomizes the scenario.


First Gary Con X play test of the card game with the roommates. Dave Weeks & RJ Thompson of Gamers & Grognards.

I had a long break and ran several play tests of my card game. I had a total of 12 play tests at Gary Con X with 31 play testers from Wednesday through Sunday. Some played more than once. My game was a big hit with all who played it, and one person asked the name of it, and that was enough to hook them to want to play it. Nearly all asked, “So when’s the Kickstarter?” without prompting. My response was either, “yeah, so when IS the Kickstarter?” or “Ummm, when I announce it?” It was awesome to have the rough edges worked out on the third play test, and very little changed after that. It is a much smoother and faster playing game than what I wrote about in the first two play tests before Gary Con here.

Paul reads my blog. We played in Laura Rose Williams DCC game at the Contessa Track at UCon in November. He play tested my game.
2nd Gary Con X play test. Paul, Clay Williams, and Laura Rose Williams (AKA “Meat Dwarf”). It was nice to get a woman’s perspective on my game. She liked it!
Clay is a bit of an artist and sketched some trucker he saw somewhere.
It looks like a police artist sketch of a serial killer. I think Clay was getting ready to run a horror game….

I have lots of offers to help with various aspects of card design, art, card production, etc. One person told me he had an idea that might not require Kickstarter. Two recognizable companies said they could help me with one or more aspects related to Kickstarter/fulfillment.

Nate of WASD20
The Initiative Coffee Co.
Ruty Rutenberg took a lot of notes about my game.
Jayson Elliot of the new TSR and Peter of Mythwits.

I find the whole thing hilarious as I don’t play many card games anymore since I don’t have a regular group that plays card games. I have a catchy title, an interesting premise, and rules that make it quick to catch on. I was saying, “I’m not a card game guy.” but not that I have a card game I realized that I am so I started saying, “I am a card game guy.”

I finally played the game today with my oldest son, and he gave me more suggestions about where to take it once it hits critical mass. He also is really good at card tricks, and made a joke with two of the cards and made it look like he turned it into another card. Now THAT will be in an announcement/Kickstarter video.

There is nothing to announce yet, as I have someone doing some sort of statistical analysis, and he had some other ideas, so I am waiting on that. One cool thing a play tester said, “I like the simplicity of the game with simple rules to learn in 5 min. at a noisy bar at Gary Con.” Sunday, I was really tired, and I was making lots of mistakes in play. the rules are so simple that players can correct an exhausted creator of the game on his errors. Out of 15 games that have been played, I have played them all and managed to win 5 of them. I am usually spending so much time helping run the game that I am mostly reliant on getting good cards. However, it is so cool that people like my game and want to play it, that I’m OK with never winning a game. I’m usually very competitive in such games, but I find I’m much more relaxed about my own game. It is because I’ve already won the grand prize of the multiverse by making a game that works and people want to play. “I made a thing and people think it’s fun and want to play it!”

IF I do a Kickstarter, I will be very careful, and stretch goals will only be card game related, like better paper, better finish, etc. I will have all the work done on typing up the rules, lining up card printers, etc. I know it will be a success as one established RPG You Tuber played it and said he’d mention it when it was time for the announcement of something. I’m not mentioning the name of the game, or anything specific until I work out a few more things. I think I also need to consult a lawyer, among other things. Patreon is in my future. I know have all kinds of ideas for card games, along with my ideas for RPG supplements, and YouTube videos. I now have a new focus to make game stuff that I never really had before. That too, will not be overnight.

All I’ve managed to do today is type up my play test notes, write a big thank you to all the EXCLUSIVE Gary Con X play testers on social media, and watch a little TV so my brain can decompress. I also managed to crank out this article, as I know work will be crazy tomorrow.

If you plan to go to Marmalade Dog, March to , 2018, I will be there running one session of Metamorphosis Alpha, and one of AD&D, and I will have my prototype card game. Be one of the EXCLUSIVE Marmalade Dog play testers and get mentioned in the credits as a play tester.


IRCA – Larry Hamilton (me), Nate Vanderzee, and Zachary Ruhnke (he went to high school with Alex Gygax) Bill Allen and the Initiative Coffee Co. crew were not around when the rest of us were. It was great to meet face to face.


Nate Vanderzee of WASD20 was hoping to interview Satine Phoenix. I helped introduce them and watched him do a great interview. Satine is so fun. She teased us with her excitement of something big she can’t talk about. Man, am I curious.  Nate lives in Grand Rapids, so maybe we can get a chance to game together. It was really cool that he played my game and liked it!

Getting ready to interview Satine Phoenix

Getting ready to interview Satine PhoenixYou can see the interview here.


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Play Testing Commences

Today was an awesome day of gaming!

I usually either play or run on Roll20 noon to 4. The GM for today had to call off due to illness.

I wasn’t worried. I had an offer to play test my new card game idea at the FLGS, Fanfare. A new game I wrote about a couple weeks ago. I just got the play test deck I ordered yesterday.

It is a game that I thought would work for 2-6 players. I two person game is obviously different with the card flow, etc. It took about 90 minutes with figuring out a couple workarounds for things that were unclear in the initial rules.

I ended up with valuable feedback, and a real basis to evaluate my game idea. It amazed me that the game played almost exactly the way I imagined it. I can see the play of this game in my mind’s eye. I very rarely have such clarity with an idea, and even more rarely manage to execute it in the real world. Talk about happy. Thanks to Joel, Playtester #1!

Running Metamorphosis Alpha

MA-Red Shirt Metamorphosis At One Well Brewery
MA-Red Shirt Metamorphosis At One Well Brewery

Since my chance to play on Roll20 got cancelled, my first play tester’s friends were free after 5:00 PM, so I went to a game friendly brewpub, One Well Brewing. I ran my Metamorphosis Alpha [Affiliate Link] scenario, Red Shirt Metamorphosis, that I have ran online a couple times, and at UCon a couple years ago. I’ll next run it at Marmalade Dog at the end of March. Four players new to Metamorphosis Alpha [Affiliate Link] and several new to old style play or seeking old school simplicity.

They were not used to player knowledge and common sense questions being the way to approach the situation. I gave them “hot stove moments” where they had missed obvious questions to ask. There were too used to GMs spoon feeding them everything. Once they realized the initial conditions I set was not 100% of the available environment, they got into it. They “beat” the scenario by achieving the goal of a four hour convention setting in 3 hours. They had more gear in spite of having worse rolls to set the initial conditions of the scenario. We exchanged contact information and will work on setting up a game.

Play Test Number 2

Play Test #2
Play Test #2

After the game, I mentioned my card game and they were eager to try it. So I had 4 players, and Joel, play tester number 1, was one of them. With me, we had 5 players. This made the game take about 45 minutes and we did a lot of talking and figuring out a few of the situations that arose to either adjudicate, or consider a rules revision.

Once again, I did not win, but I didn’t care. People were playing my game! Not only that, they liked it! Each of them said if this was a Kickstarter, they would back it! I suspected it was good enough for Kickstarter. By that I mean, a solid idea that can have the rough edges worked out through more play testing. If I do my job right and iron out all the details, a Kickstarter to fund art should easily fund, and could do better than I expect.

More valuable feedback was given. The two best, or my favorite comments:

From Jake from the second play test game, when I asked what he liked the best about it. “Playability – You can pick it up and be playing quickly.”

Joel, the most experienced player next to me, after two games said, “The light learning curve.”

Jake was really excited, and knows a lot of student artists who might be interested in doing art for the cards. I’m glad to consider new artists, if their art style is what I’m looking for. If my efforts can get them exposure and regular work, even better.

I’m bringing my play test deck to Gary Con, and if you’re around when I’m not running or playing, we can definitely play. I’ll be there sometime Wednesday, which reminds me I need to figure out travel plans with my roommate for the weekend. We have yet to set a time to leave.

This is so cool!

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One Bookshelf Affiliate Sales Totals for 2017

I decided to take a look and see what my annual sales through my OBS (DriveThruRPG, RPGNow, & DMsGuild) links generated.

In total, I earned $37.10 for 120 individual products. Six products had multiple sales. The big seller was five Hex Kit Volume 1: Fantasyland Tileset, [Affiliate Link] for use with Hex Kit [Affiliate Link]; and two sales each for the remaining 5 products. 114 products had a single sale.

Of the five products that had two sales, three are familiar: Dungeon Grappling [Affiliate Link], Players Handbook (1e) [Affiliate Link], and White Box Omnibus. [Affiliate Link] The other two, I have never heard of.  The Downtown Dataheist [Affiliate Link] and Cross-Class Subterfuge [Affiliate Link].  I don’t know those last two, so I can’t recommend them.

$37.10 isn’t bad. If I hadn’t spent most of it buying other products, I could use it for a few years of my domain name, or about a third of my annual web hosting fees.

I have no illusions of getting rich or quitting my day job, but it would be nice to beak even on my efforts at blogging my thoughts and reviews. If you like what I do, please consider buying your OBS gaming materials through my affiliate links.

I’m also a Game Science affiliate. Please consider your next dice purchase through my site.

The Amazon Affiliate program is tough to get a sale. I have links to things at Amazon, but not so much on my blog. I have added an Amazon Affiliate badge to the main page of my blog. I include links to the D&D 5e books, and the equipment I use for YouTube videos.

I’m debating starting a Patreon. I told myself that I wouldn’t even consider it until I reached 100 YouTube subscribers. That’s a milestone I reached in early January. Do you value my stuff enough to pay for it? I’ve been infrequent in posting lately, but with a Patreon, I would have at least one blog post a month, and one YouTube video a month. I would structure it for a flat monthly fee, if I did it.

I’m curious what you all think of that. My habit is to deny that I’m any good, and am not worth it. However, I don’t see the value of my efforts the way others might. If you think what I do via my blog or YouTube channel has enough to merit a Patreon, please tell me in the comments.

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Card Game Idea Strikes

Last year at Gary Con IX, I had an idea for a couple of card games. I’m not a big card game player, mostly because I don’t have a regular in-person gaming group. I have some rough outlines for those, but I need to polish them a lot so they are coherent and explainable to another person. Towards the end of this post, I mentioned I had a card game idea.

Creative lightning strikes come unexpected and this happened to me last night. A much simpler variation of one of the ideas from the last Gary Con came to me. It was one of those, clear and almost fully formed ideas.

I hurriedly typed up the basics that came to mind. This morning, I was filled with the ideas to round out the game, and typed out most of the rest of the rules. I think it’s a playable game, and there are some twists and turns in it so it will be different each time.

My level of excitement and inspiration may not translate to others, but I think I can polish what I have for clarity, and mock up a deck in time to take it to Gary Con X. There are so many creative gamers there, and the low-key atmosphere is a great place to hone game ideas. If my game has merit, it will be evident from how others receive it. A good elevator pitch will help.

I ordered 500 blank playing cards from Amazon [Affiliate Link ]last year, and started trying to mock up my original idea, but it bogged down. Scribbling out the card faces and leaving the backs blank will work for a rough play test, but it would be cool to have a mockup with a printed back and public domain art to take with me. I am very torn right now.

I REALLY want to work on this NOW, but I still have game prep to go for some of my games I’m running at Gary Con. This sort of thing happens to me all the time. I am in the groove with something, and some new idea/thing comes to my attention, and I have to be all about that new thing. I may not be overly ambitious/optimistic about this, and I might actually be able to do a decent job for a professionally printed play test deck in time to have it for Gary Con. The voice saying, “Do Eeet!” is very loud at the moment. It’s almost as loud as it was last night. I’d hoped typing this up to share my excitement, while I alternated with tweaking my rough rules, would dampen that desire. I’m sure it would cost a lot to rush a print job, but part of me doesn’t care.

If I totally suck at manipulating art to make a single card image, that would greatly reduce my enthusiasm. I’m going to have to try to make some cards, and if I’m lousy at it, then I can set this aside. However, I know there are tools that make it fairly easy (I’ve done a lot of research.), and I printed a deck I bought online that I had to manipulate to work with the printer I chose. So I may have something worthy of a rough deck that looks decent by this evening.

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My Gary Con Schedule

I have a gold badge for Gary Con 10, and I got signed up right after game sign-up opened today.

I got in some of the games I wanted, but too many were at the same time as other games I signed up for, or conflicted with the games I am running. There are too many people I want to game with. I try to mix up what GMs I play with at different cons, sometimes with little success. When a seminar conflicted with a game, I chose the game. Hopefully, we can do some pickup games.

I’m looking forward to finally meeting several people from the OSR and other online venues.

I’m running games for the first time at Gary Con. Prep and polishing of my scenarios is under way. From top down, the systems are: Gang Busters (Mark Hunt’s effort), Stars Without Number Revised, and Gamma World 1e.

Gary Con X - What I'm Running
Gary Con X – What I’m Running

If you are interested, here are the games I will play. I snagged a seat to finally play Top Secret with Merle Rasmussen! I’ll also get to play with +Joseph Bloch, and finally meet him.

Gary Con X - What I'm Playing
Gary Con X – What I’m Playing

If you’re going to Gary Con X, please let me know so we can meet up!

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The Silence Is Broken – An Update On The City State of The Invincible Overlord Kickstarter

Judges Guild has a Kickstarter for a re-print/revision of their City State Of The Invincible Overlord book. As all successful Kickstarters, there is the blurb about the number of backers and the amount raised: “965 backers pledged $85,130 to help bring this project to life.”

This was a respectable amount of pledges, but had problems from the start. First, the add ons included minis that were not factored in before the start. Second, none of the pledges included shipping, or did include shipping, as it cost in 2014. James Mishler was supposed to do some writing for the project, and his own personal issues led to nothing happening from him and the February 13, 2015 update revealed that his portion had not been done. (This was a major setback, but it seemed to be OK, since they could just clean up what they had with maybe a few additions.)

After many updates and back and forth, the layout is supposedly being done by Bob 3. Bob 2 has stated somewhere online that he gave Bob 3 money to pay for a layout person. (I wish people posting in the updates would share all these link. I don’t have time to track them down to back this up. So consider this heresay.)

A few pages of layout were supposedly being done each month. I think someone built a spreadsheet to show how close it must be.

The last update prior to today was September 28, 2017. A monthly update was promised after less than monthly updates were not forthcoming. Each update indicated the number of pages of layout, etc. Often filled with stories of sick family, moving to a new apartment, fumigating for pests, et. al.

After radio silence from Judges Guild, and Bob 2 and 3, Rob Conley, one of the cartographers, stepped up and got permission and a license from Bob 2, to share his map with the Kickstarter backers, then sell it on OBS to recoup the license cost. You can read about it here, here, here, and here on the Bat In The Attic blog. It’s pretty bad when one of your artists/cartographers has to step up and do something for the backers.

Change of Attitude

I greatly appreciated Rob Conley’s efforts. But after all this radio silence, I decided I had enough. I sent the following via the Kickstarter email feature:

JG-CSIO-KS-RefundRequest_Screen Shot
JG-CSIO-KS-RefundRequest_Screen Shot

Unlike many others who have requested a refund, I received an answer today. The KS email feature only shows the date. I checked my actual email, and it was sent at 1:20 AM EST.

Here is the reply:

JG-CSIO-KS-RefundRequestDenied_Screen Shot
JG-CSIO-KS-RefundRequestDenied_Screen Shot


I was careful to quote the Kickstarter Terms of Use that apply to this Kickstarter, which can be found here.

You will notice that Bob 3 uses the same document to deny my request. I did a search and he has accurately quoted two parts of the section Projects: Fundraising and Commerce, lines 13 and 14, and lines 20 & 21.

So, under this Terms of Use, we can’t get our money without the free will of the creator, or proof of fraud. I am not a lawyer, but it looks like I have no recourse, unless I want to spend a lot of money for a lawyer to find out what my options are.

I feel that I only got a response based on what is discussed in the rest of this blog article. There are others in the comments who have also asked for a refund months ago, with not even a reply. They are eagerly waiting for me to post this.

Surprise, Surprise, Surprise!

Today’s (January 24, 2018) update appears to be prompted by an article over on Tenkar’s Tavern yesterday. After the unexpected update on Kickstarter, Tenkar posted a follow up today.

Until the last few weeks, I have only followed the saga of this project via the updates and comments on the Kickstarter page. It was in reading over the comments a few weeks ago that I learned that Bob 2 has been saying that the CSIO Kickstarter is NOT an official Judges Guild adventure. (I’ll look up the links with quotes, etc. unless someone wants to send me the links. Just hearsay otherwise.) There are two screenshots someone has shared to Imgur showing that it was stated as a Judges Guild endeavor on their website. I’ll share that screenshot below, for the record.


Supposedly Bob 2 has been deleting comments from the Judges Guild Game Company Facebook page. The most recent post is from January 22, 2018 with a picture of Bob 1’s office scissors. Before that December 23, 2017. So it is not a very busy page.

There is a Kickstarter page on the Judges Guild website, but it requires a password. It is unclear what the purpose of this page is. Why have a publicly visible page? It is trivial to make a page only those in the know can even see. I am sure this just invites more criticism.

Facebook page for the Kickstarter with no updates since 2014.

Dragonsfoot has a thread about the KS, as I am sure many other discussion boards do.

RPGNet’s 2017 year in review has comments wishing for a completion of this Kickstarter.

I don’t normally visit forums, and found the above forum links via a search on Google. It is not difficult to find a lot of talk about this Kickstarter and how many plan to boycott Judges Guild products and projects until something happens with this Kickstarter.


If you do a Kickstarter, plan to communicate with your backers with substantive and demonstrable things that don’t sound like you don’t want to do the work you said you’d do.

I think there are two courses of action for Judges Guild and the Bobs:

  1. Admit defeat and refund what you can’t deliver. Deliver what you can.
    1. Some have suggested a PDF of what they have now to prove it exists and renew trust.
  2. Do a PDF as mentioned above to show that there is a real product. Backers would then get off your back asking so many questions from being kept in the dark.

Anyone who is thinking about doing a Kickstarter can learn from this what not to do. If JG and the Bobs can pull it off, it will be an example of how to rise from the ashes. If they can do it, it will be too little to late for many, in my opinion.


This is not a well written post, but I said I’d do it tonight, and don’t have time to track down links for sources, or to polish it before a quick supper before tonight’s Roll20 game.

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Lizards vs Wizards – Mini Review

Lizards & Wizards [Affiliate Link] is a fun RPG by James V. West. You can get it as Pay What You Want on DriveThruRPG. It is set in a post-apocalyptic world after “The Great Big Blammo.” You play a lizard seeking stuff while avoiding monsters and wizards. This is a 32 page booklet that is a full RPG, complete with tables for character generation, a d100 name table if you are stuck for one, three d100 loot tables for stuff you can find. There is a one page bestiary of six monsters, such as cats, dogs, and birds.

Like the character generation tables for lizards, the wizard generation table deals with size, and color. There are other wizardly attributes, aura and mobility. All wizards have powers, a d100 table helps generate them. Wizards need a goal to motivate them, and you get a d100 table also. A d100 name table is complemented with a d100 title table. So you end up with combinations like, Randy The Cannabalistic.

It is designed for quick play, lizards are very small and fragile, and everything else is larger and deals a lot of damage. The game master is called the Monitor, because, you know, lizards.

James has quite the artistic and otherwise plain old creative skill to make quick little games like this. He has illustrated it with images of various lizards, wizards, beasts and items to set the scene. He even lays it out on the first page:

The human world was blowed to bits in the Great Big Blammo way back in the Longago Days. Now is The Squam. There are monsters. There are wizards. There are lizards. You are a lizard. Good Luck.

This is an all around fun little book. I found it worth it just to read and enjoy the art. It is simple enough, it can serve as an introductory RPG for all ages. One could easily modify it for pre-literate children. The straight forward structure of this game makes it easy to mod so that you replace lizard with any small creature.

It already has a revision to the PDF, and also comes with two PDF character sheets, one is form-fillable. I can’t see what changed, probably a typo.

James V. West has done other games, is well-known in the OSR for his own hand-drawn character sheets, and has done them for specific games. Here are his DriveThruRPG links as an author [Affiliate Link] and as an artist [Affiliate Link]. Most of his own stuff is PWYW, so at least give him a dollar on any of his PDFs. They are definitely worth it.

This is very simple, a random generator via a spreadsheet or other simple random list picker could generate lizards, wizards, and loot for pre-gens and one shots. However, I think half the fun would be rolling up a lizard on the spot to see what you get. Online play, such as with Roll20 would also be quick. I’d rather play this with a group around a table.

A fun little game that I look forward to playing someday.

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Stars Without Number Revised Edition Mini Review

Stars Without Number: Revised Edition [Affiliate Link] is the result of a Kickstarter to fund a second/revised edition of the rules that are backwards compatible with the original. Kevin Crawford is the man behind Stars Without Number, and in my opinion, is the best at running RPG Kickstarters. I backed this Kickstarter personally, and am extremely pleased with how well he ran it.

The Right Way To Run An RPG Kickstarter.

On the Kickstarter front, Kevin had a plan and worked his plan to his advantage. He had the artists lined up and had a spreadsheet to track each step of each artist’s work on each picture they were contracted. He tracked drafts, revisions, due dates, payments, etc. The end result for the art, thanks to a stretch goal, is that the complete art is available for free for both personal and commercial use, in the Art Pack [Affiliate Link]. He set a goal to raise enough money to buy the complete rights to the art, and he has given it away! He also did that with the original.

When I say Kevin had a plan, I mean it. It is also something he shares with others. He wrote about it in his zine The Sandbox #1 [Affiliate Link]. He directly mentions that he has a process for running a Kickstarter. He also has a total catastrophe plan, and if he does not deliver 100% by the day he said he would, he will refund all the money. This will only happens if he dies. Well we needn’t worry, it completed today, a month and a half before the delivery deadline.

I think everyone who wants to run a Kickstarter should get the first edition of his zine, and use that to build a plan. The big secret is having the writing done, and lining up the artwork, printing, and fulfillment process up front.

What’s In The Kickstarter?

Obviously the revised rules. There is a whole section on the Kickstarter page about what is changing and what is being added. The rules came as a PDF to all backers, and he added ebook formats of mobi and epub. The PDF is in a lightweight format with smaller resolution art, and the full quality art. There is a form fillable PDF character sheet in the rule, and Kevin separated it into its own PDF. Plus there is the GM screen with all the tables pertinent to running a session.

The artwork is gorgeous! Don’t take my word for it, the art is available for free! [Affiliate Link] The first image in the GM screen PDF hit the right spot for me. See the image below. This is the portion of the image I was greeted with when I first opened the PDF for the GM screen. WOW! My monitor is set so I have to look up just a bit, adding to the feeling of awe.

There is a PDF with a picture of all the art with the name of the artist under it. All 28 illustrations come in tif format, meaning full color and ready to print! The only requirement for using this royalty free art is to credit the original artist. Free pictures of star fields, nebula, and other astronomical objects from NASA help add to the awesomeness of this project.

First Page SWN GM Screen by Aaron Lee
First Page SWN GM Screen by Aaron Lee

The book is a hefty 321 pages with a gorgeous cover, good quality paper that is easy to read – the background art sticks to the edges away from the text.

Finally, Kevin offered a code for all backers to get a monster tome with all of his previously published material for SWN. This tome was only available to backers. I wasn’t going to spend the $100 to get this 1009 page beast of a book, but I relented and added it to my collection. This is even bigger than the 609 page 2nd edition Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea [Affiliate Link] that is bigger than the DCC [Affiliate Link] rule book.

If you want to see an actual play, Adam Koebel ran a game that is on YouTube. He also had episodes just for the GM. I have only watched the session 0/character creation video, and the first GM video on the faction turn. Having the PDF of the rules available for free is a low bar for jumping into the game. The only difference between the free and full rules is the art.

The Mini Review.

Gorgeous art, with a science fiction setting built in, tables for system and session generation. Lots of cool ideas that can be used in any game. The original edition had rules for a faction turn, which remain. I really like the idea of multi-system spanning corporations and other organizations seeking to control things. It has been described as the GM’s turn between sessions. While the ideas are not totally portable to all genres, it has a framework that gives you something to think about.

The system is based on the standard six abilities from D&D. While much is familiar, there are minor differences. Initiative is with a d8, for example. I was really impressed with the original edition, and I bought the PDF a while back. I decided to back the Kickstarter, when I learned of it.

I’ll be running a session of SWN at Gary Con X in March, and I will be digging in to all of the materials I now have in my hands as I polish and tighten the scenario. If you are interested, you can sign up for event #222 Raid on The Space Vikings. I got inspired last year when I read H. Beam Piper’s Space Vikings [Affiliate Link].

After a more in depth reading of what I have, I can post a more in-depth review. There is a lot here, and if you are a fan of science fiction, or like the ideas in random tables to add to your GM toolkit, you can’t go wrong with the free rules. Although I recommend you buy the full rules to support the creator.

Kevin has done many other games, and game supplements. Check them out at his website, Sine Nomine Publishing, or click the link for his products at OBS and see what else he has done.

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My Gary Con X Events Are Now On The Schedule

I got the email confirmation today that the three events I submitted to run at Gary Con 10 are now on the Schedule. Two are on Thursday, and the third is on Saturday.

Here is a listing of my games with links to the details on the Gary Con Tabletop Events page.

I told Mark Hunt at Gary Con IX last year, that I would run a game of Gang Busters so he can play. Mark is a lot of fun as a GM, it will be fun to see him in action as a player. Of course, it will be Mark’s version of the rules.

Way back when, I was more into reading science fiction than fantasy, and while we played various science fiction themed RPGs and even kluged together one of our own, AD&D was always our go to. I love D&D and fantasy RPGs, but I also love science fiction. I was inspired when I read H. Beam Piper’s Space Vikings [Affiliate Link], to come up with a scenario for a convention. Stars Without Number really caught my attention about that time. So much so, that I backed the Kickstarter for the revised edition. I even have ideas for a campaign, just not enough time to run another campaign right now.

I was the first to submit a game for Stars Without Number [Affiliate Link], and may be the only one. The final schedule of all the games is not yet posted, so time will tell. I got the email with the shipping tracker number for my SWN Revised Edition [Affiliate Link] book from the Kickstarter. It is backward compatible, and I have the new PDF, it will just be cool to have the final book in my hands as I do final preparations. Using the new form fillable character sheet will be fun too!

I’ve run several games of Metamorphosis Alpha [Affiliate Link], the first science fiction RPG, both online and at conventions. I describe it as Gamma World in space, since the rules are so similar. I managed to get a 1st edition boxed set, and will be using that to run my game. It’s not in mint condition, and even though Jim Ward signed it, games are meant to be played. I just love the art by Dave Trampier.


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Ramblings of an Old Gamer