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!

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.

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.

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.

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.