Category Archives: Conventions

Grand Con 2017

I attended two events at Grand Con, visited with friends, and spent a bit of time in the vendor hall.

Grand Con is in Grand Rapids, Michigan which is about an hour away from where I live near Kalamazoo. I elected to drive back and forth each day, as time and cost of gas seemed worth it to me vs. a hotel nearby.

I signed up for one game each day, with the plan of lots of visiting or perhaps running or playing pick up games. A few weeks ago, I got an email that the Saturday game was cancelled. Plans changed as my son’s car has issues and he has been borrowing my car to get to work.  He works nights and this particular weekend, he worked all three evenings of the con.

Friday I took him to work, played in a game from 7 to 11 pm, I didn’t get home until about 12:20 and bed about 1 am. Getting up to get him from work before 6 am meant that I was just too tired to safely drive. Having tried sleeping and driving about 25 years ago, I don’t recommend it, and definitely don’t wish to repeat it. I took a nap for the first time in I can’t recall, and spent Saturday doing very little. Sunday I drove up for the 9 am game and was delayed by a 5K run that held me up for 10 minutes a mere 100 yards from the site and parking garage. I was nearly an hour early, so it was not a problem. I learned that those in the con had no idea about it.

Don't Sleep & Drive
Don’t Sleep & Drive – I choose not to do a repeat.

Friday’s Game

The Friday game was one hosted by the group, We Hate Bards. I’m sure there’s a story behind that name. The GM was Raven, the 4th or 5th female GM I have had. (I am glad that there is more variety in GMs in my experience. Even better that I am loosing track of just how many it has been.) It was D&D 5e and the session was called, Welcome to the Iron Realms: Play Smarter, Not Harder.

There was only one other player, so I am glad that I ignored my thoughts of not going Friday night. She had a neat hand drawn map in her GM notebook to show us the layout of her campaign world. We had to find out why the trolls were interrupting the iron trade, which gives the name of Iron Realms. Each character has 5 “minions” to help us. They dwindled to one each by the end of the session.

We avoided an unnecessary combat and gained allies to help us deal with our first fight and guided us into the swamp. We also avoided fighting a giant frog that probably would have smoked us. By playing smart and gaining allies and avoiding a fight with the frog, she awarded us 2nd and 3rd levels.

We took a moment to note out new hit points and new feats/abilities/paths. I chose a dwarf barbarian. I got to roll the abilities and create my character. She had a few pre-gens, but had not completed that process yet.

I specifically chose a 5e game, as I need to play it more to get familiar with the specifics of its rules. Even though I leveled up this character, I did not catch that he was resistant to bludgeoning damage until after the consequences of being knocked out were resolved. Even with a fancy printed character sheet, it was a general sheet and not optimized for the class. There was just too much to look at to find the option, and I wrote it in a corner of the sheet in a way that it did not stand out.

I am not used to there being different categories of damage and having the ability to resist different types. I skipped 3e, 3.5e, and 4e, so it is a new concept to me. This is similar to when I played in +Satine Phoenix’s game at Gary Con 9 that not until the last initiative of the game did I roll with advantage like I should have all session.

For me, I can handle a lot of options once I am familiar with them all, but with as many options as a 3rd level character has, I need a character sheet that is not “busy” with bits I don’t need, and all that I do need is on one side of the page. Combat related things need to all be on one page. Surprise, initiative, resistances, and anything that aids combat (melee or ranged). Spells are a different matter.

It was a great game with an interesting puzzle that took us a while to figure out, but we did it.

I am used to the rules being easy enough that I have a pretty good idea of what a character can do. Granted AD&D is not rules light, but there are not so many races and classes in the core rules that one can’t easily have at least a general idea of what they can do. With 5e, even though I have the core books and have read them, there is so much to them, that for even an experienced player, with out regular sessions to keep up with the details, one can quickly become overwhelmed. With that much involved with a character, character death would definitely suck. I can see why many prefer to always play the same class and race in 5e, as they have that one figured out.

The Iron Kingdoms
The Iron Kingdoms

Sunday’s Game

I played DCC with +Brendan LaSalle on his birthday! The Inn At Five Points. We were all second level. I elected to play a wizard. There were only a few first level spells. The only spells that I was able to put to use in the situations we found ourselves, was flaming hands and invoke patron.

Brendan used his d50 for the Minor Mercurial Effects table from his contribution to 50 uses for a d50. I left mine at home. I need to add it to my dice bag (I think it will fit).

I asked about invoke patron, and as my character is neutral, I ended up with some nondescript entity best described as “Mehhhhh” (be sure to emphasize the shrug). I wish I had a recording of the way Brendan said it.

In short, the neutral cleric in the party did something and rolled a crit that changed the whole nature of the scenario. Instead of fighting for our lives, we were taunting the bad guys. The two clerics, one neutral and one chaotic, an elf, and my wizard all invoked their deities and patrons. The chaotic cleric was able to spell burn in this situation. The neutral cleric got a lot of help from fleeting luck and halfling luck, and the elf and I spell burned for 20s. Once we all had 4 20’s our dieties and patrons helped us out and got us to the ultimate destination for the evening. We were set upon by beasts  that nearly killed us while we were still in need of 3 weeks of rest to recover from so much spell burn. We managed to beat the beasts and find a safe place to hold up and rest.

Finally, we encountered some sprites that would help us if we took out their greatest nemesis. We managed to find this creature and our dwarf stonemason who rolled poorly to OK rolled a 20 to set the trap to destroy the creature. The one to trigger it rolled really well and luck boosted the efforts to smear the beast into a stain.

It is great how spectacular rolls make for a game unlike any other. Brendan did a great job of rolling with the flow of our rolls and choices, and he had as much fun as the rest of us. I’m glad I got to help give him that present.

The Inn At Five Points
The Inn At Five Points

Vendor Hall

The room with the vendor hall was a huge cavernous room. The vendors were along two sides with the board game tables in the middle.

I visited with +John Reyst of Open Gaming Store and James Means of Game Science.

Open Gaming Booth
Open Gaming Booth

Game Science has plans for a new d100 with an improved braking system. It is manufactured in Adrian, Michigan, and will be available soon. I bought the last of the prior version of the d100 they had, as I had not yet acquired one.

They also plan to have a d30 in 2018 and a d7 in late 2018 or early 2019. I confirmed that it is OK for me to share that on the blog.

Game Science Dice
Game Science Dice

 

Final Thoughts

Grand Con celebrated its fifth year. The location at the DeVos Place was bigger than they needed. Without a contiguous allocation of space, there was a lot of confusion. My arrival Friday evening was after they got the kinks worked out and I had no difficulty finding the RPG space. However, the RPG space was well separated from the vendor hall and board game area.

They do a good job with their online registration system, and picking up my pre-registration items was easy.

Grand Rapids doesn’t like giving you free parking close to downtown sites, $10 a day! Also the DeVos Place didn’t have a sign that I could see, so people who don’t spend a lot of time in Grand Rapids would have a frustrating time figuring out what building it is, when Google Maps doesn’t tell you you’re there until you are past the parking entrance and showed me that I should cross the street to the government building. Also, the city communicating with the venue and the venue management passing that on to the con would have helped with the confusion Sunday morning with the 5K shutting down traffic.

Other than getting to the con location, I really didn’t have any problems. I had a good time in my events, and didn’t stay long enough to partake of the limited on-site food.

You can read +Clayton Williams’ con report here with details of the entire con.

Gary Con IX Wrap Up

This year’s Gary Con was awesome. Other than some trivial issues it was all good.

I arrived Wednesday, picked up my registration pack and saw a few friends. I also wandered around the vendor hall during setup. Black Blade Publishing/Goodman Games had a spot inside the door across from registration. I immediately say a lot of things I wanted. After going to our hotel (NOTE: Don’t wait, if you want to go, call the Grand Geneva now. We had rain the last few days and walking in the rain to the con is no fun.), we went to Frankenparty IV. Frank Mentzer opens his home to attendees, and just asks for a small donation towards the food.

Frank had out a painting that was suggested for the original red box cover with a full adventure party, and not the lone fighter facing the dragon. That picture had not been made public before. He also has Gary Gygax’ old TSR desk. I got to sit next to Darlene the artist while I ate. Later, while I was in Frank’s office listening to him tell stories Darlene walked in to say her goodbyes and Frank told her things were a go. Then he turned to us and said that he is launching a Kickstarter in a few months for his campaign world. Darlene will be doing the maps. (So much for avoiding Kickstarters….) Frank says that he has a letter by Gary Gygax that says his campaign is in a certain location in Greyhawk. Obviously he can’t use any names owned by WotC, but this should be cool!

Red Box Alternate Cover
Red Box Alternate Cover - Info
Red Box Alternate Cover – Info

We stopped by the Grand Geneva and met a few friends and had a drink before going to our hotel.

Thursday before my first game, I wandered by the vendor hall. The doors were open early so I went in and picked up my Epsilon City Kickstarter and the one for How To Write Adventure Modules The Don’t Suck. I also bought Dungeon Alphabet, Monster Alphabet, and the OSRIC Monstrosities book. I also saw these cool map pads that I knew I’d be back later.

Across from that I visited with Jeff Talanian of Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. He managed to easily sell the last of his first edition boxes.

He was next to Frog God Games, so I stepped over and met Erik Tenakar. Nice guy. I also saw Zach Glazer & Bill Webb, and met Mike Badolato.

Erik Tenkar
Erik Tenkar

My first game was in Ernie Gygax’ Hobby Shop Dungeon. He had a laminated copy for us to see. It is a HUGE dungeon. He put up some video on Facebook, where you can see me scribbling notes as he reads his intro.

Posted by Ernest Gary Gygax Jr. on Monday, March 27, 2017

 

I didn’t have anything else scheduled until 6, so I wandered around, bought more stuff, got some signatures, etc.

From 6-8, I attended a Seminar by Satine Phoenix and Ruty Rutenberg where they explained how they do their Maze Arcana livestream. They explained how you can do it with good enough webcams, but you have to be careful not to overload the computer. Very informative. It was also great to catch up with Satine. I had no idea who she was when we met at last year’s Gary Con, also her first time there.

Ruty, Satine, A.J., and me
Ruty, Satine, A.J., and me

Friday I started off with Mark Hunt’s Gangbusters. The premise was that “The Masks” were putting on too much pressure, so it was time for one last job. He gave us Penguin, Two-Face (who had to flip a coin), Poison Ivy, Riddler, Flat Top, Joker, and two characters he generated. We found out that we were up against Dick Tracy, The Shadow, and Batman. We laughed so hard that I got a headache. Flat Top managed to kill Dick Tracy and take his watch, hat, and coat and drive away. Sean, who played Two Face got tails like 11 or 12 times in a row, which was hilarious!

Mark announced his Gangbusters Kickstarter this summer. He had a mockup of the rules which is complete with place holders for art. Mark had one game each day for 8 players and each had a waiting list. He asked me to run two games next year. I and others told him to go to Gamehole Con. I told him that I planned to run at Gamehole Con this year, and will run a session of Gangbusters. I will also run at UCon in Ypsilanti, MI.

Gangbusters - Mark Hunt
Gangbusters – Mark Hunt

That night, I got to play in Satine Phoenix’ first time running a convention game. It was my first real time playing 5e. She did great and kept us entertained and busy. We had something happen that initiated a timer, so we had two hours to get a resolution, and we made it with 1 minute and 22 seconds to spare! We had one character die, which was also the first time one has died when Satine ran the game. Later at the bar she told me that she was glad I was there for a friendly face, and moral support. Zing! Straight to the feels! She took a picture of our group that got re-tweeted by Geek & Sundry, which was cool!

Saturday morning, I played in a party of adventuring monsters who went “Against The Dwarfs”, for taking out their allies the giants. Ryan, the DM plans a sequel to that for next year. His premise, plot, and NPCs and the voices were all memorable. I have to get into that sequel next year!

AD&D - Against The Dwarfs
AD&D – Against The Dwarfs

That night I played in Michael Shorten’s AD&D game set in his campaign world. He had a very interesting setup. At one point we ran into a cave of shriekers and he started wailing, he can really hit those high notes! Every other table in the room stopped what they were doing and imitated him. He then said, “And that is what you hear.” It was epic! It is one of those moments that you wish you had it on video to share with the world!

AD&D With Michael Shorten
AD&D With Michael Shorten

On Sunday, I played Astonishing Swordsmen & Sorcerers of Hyperborea. It was a scenario by Goblin Punch, The Meal of Oshregaal. We failed in our mission, but had a blast.

Sometime during the week, I also talked to Pat Kilbane a couple of times. He was getting in several final interviews for the documentary. It was so cool that he was appreciative of my banging the drum to bring attention to the Patreon. This movie will happen, and if you can give something towards the Patreon, it will speed up that process.

I took a bunch of things to get signed, because Jeff Dee was there, but I never saw him when he wasn’t running a game or I didn’t have the books with me. I picked up the Holmes Blue Box rulebook a couple years ago, since I gave my original to my youngest brother when I went to college. I asked Tom Wham to sign it and he said, “I didn’t do anything in that.” I said, “You’re in the credits,” and handed it to him. He flipped through it and said, “That picture looks familiar, I guess I did.” Lots of fun moments like that.

James Ward made it and looked OK and was always his pleasant self. He signed a book I bought and the two Kickstarters I picked up. I sat and watched the final moments of the last two characters in his Metamorphosis Alpha game fall resulting in a TPK.

MA with Jim Ward - TPK
MA with Jim Ward – TPK

 

Tim Kask recieved the second annual E. Gary Gygax Lifetime Achievement Award, which James Ward had received last year.

The E. Gary Gygax Lifetime Achievement Award was given to Tim Kask this weekend at Gary Con IX, and deservedly so….

Posted by Jim Wampler on Sunday, March 26, 2017

On the way home, we stopped by Lake Geneva Games and had a tour from Mark Clover. He encouraged us to come early next year and game. We then went 30 miles out of the way for my passenger to pick up a package at Noble Knight Games and save on shipping. They have a small storefront with a huge warehouse in back. The storefront was unimpressive. If you are local, or in the area, go pick up a package. Otherwise, see their booth at a con, like Gamehole Con, or order online.

Lake Geneva Games
Lake Geneva Games

 

Noble Knight Games
Noble Knight Games

When I woke up one morning and had the half awake thing where an idea can come, I had an idea for a card game, so I sat up and typed all the high points into my phone. I think it might be good enough to Kickstart. It depends on how well I can execute the mechanics….

I always take off the Monday after a con to rest up and run errands. While out running errands, I had an idea for another card game, that is even better than the first one. It is also more clear in my mind, and the mechanics just write themselves, it seems. When inspiration strikes, it often comes in truckloads. More about both ideas later.

I still have a lot to write about, and a lot to write about once it is OK to go public.

Last year, there were about 1250 attendees. This year there were about 1300 pre-registered, with over 1700 total attendance. At some point, we will reach the limits of this largest venue in Lake Geneva. I hope they always keep it here. Time will tell.

I am so ready for next year, where I know I’ll be running two sessions of Gangbusters. Not sure I’ll run anything else, as I also want to play.

I almost left out playing in Frank Metzer’s OD&D game. I’ll have to write about his old school mechanic for everything.

Frank Mentzer - ODD
Frank Mentzer – ODD

Until next year!

Getting Ready for Gary con IX!

I’m excited about Gary Con IX. One more day of work before I can hit the road.

If you can’t make it to Gary Con this year, maybe you can find a local convention.

I wrote about sites where you can find conventions in your area here. Small local cons are a great place to run your first convention game. That was my experience, and I had a blast.

I’m jumping in and trying the YouTube thing, so here’s a video where I talk about Gary Con.

Where Can I Find a Game Convention?

There is a lot of talk online about what game conventions are happening, or those that many plan to attend.

I recently had a friend inquire about cons in his general area. I thought I had written about

Google is my first tool of choice to find things with an online presence.

There are several site that share lists of cons. My favorite is Game Convention Central.  I last wrote about them in 2014. It has groupings by country, and then region within the country. Like most lists I found, since my primary language is English, and I live in the USA, the lists focus on the U.S.

Game Convention Central has a page to submit cons that aren’t on their list. They also have a game/gamer search for those looking for players in their area.

BoardGameGeek also has a list of conventions. It is also grouped by country.

Similarly, Wikipedia has a list of gaming conventions grouped by country and region.

Upcoming Cons is a site that has a long list of cons in date order on the front page. It goes to November, 2017 and has one at the bottom already for 2018. It is mostly US. I spied one in the UK. They have a page to submit cons not already on their list. They also have a rating system, and have categories to divide up the cons. This seems to be cons of all sorts, with a specific gaming con list.

Local cons in your area may be organized by the local college or university and not much advertised beyond campus and local game stores. If you don’t already know about cons in your area, and they are not on the above lists, if and when you do find them, please add them above to help others find them.

When the local con in my area, Marmalade Dog, isn’t the same weekend as Gary Con, I will be at it running and playing games. Support your local cons, not just the ones with all the big names. Local cons have more opportunity to find local players of like mindset. They are also a lot cheaper and can be from one to 3 days. Best of all, you don’t need a hotel since you live nearby.

No WOTC at GenCon 50

WOW! Not the year i’d pick to skip Gen Con, the 50th is a big deal. Personally, Gen Con is too big for me, and also a time of year I can’t easily get off work. I first saw mention of this over on Tenkar’s Tavern.

I hope their attendance at Gary Con and not Gen Con doesn’t force rapid growth at Gary Con. It’s cool to keep it in Lake Geneva. I’d hate to see them cap attendance or move, but I also don’t want it too big.

Same with GameHole, good size.

I’m curious what no official D&D presence at GenCon will mean? I assume no WOTC means no “official” D&D games/tournaments. I’m sure they will still have DMs running their adventures that count for their adventure league or whatever it is called. It probably won’t hurt as people will still play.

 

Local Con Date Conflict with Gary Con IX

Marmalade Dog, a con hosted by the West Michigan Gamers Guild (WMGG) and held on the Western Michigan University campus is the same weekend as Gary Con. I was able to attend both last year because they were different weekends.

Unfortunately, the date is set by the people in charge of the calendar at WMU and they have to take what they are given.

I intended to step up and make sure an OSR track happened this year, but I don’t want to put in all the work if I can’t follow it through to the end. I was getting ready to plan what games I might run, but figured I’d better verify the dates before I put in the work.

The cool thing about this con, if you sign up to run games by December 31, you get a t-shirt and free admission for each day that you run a game. So if you are nearby and won’t be at GaryCon, consider running a game at Marmalade Dog.

Find the closest game convention in your area and join in the fun. If you are unable to run a game for whatever reason, sign up to play. Even if you only participate for a day, you still show the convention organizers that there is interest, and it will happen again next year.

If you are looking for a list of game conventions, here are some sites that have lists.

A good and organic list is at Gaming Convention Central. The main page is focused on the USA, but it has links for conventions worldwide. One can also submit conventions not on their list here.

Wikipedia also has a list of Gaming Conventions. Gamehole Con is missing from this list.

Board Game Geek has a good list that is also worldwide. Their list is a WIKI so it appears that you can easily edit to add to the list.

The site Upcoming Cons has a list that shows which cons are next, but it missing several cons on the other sites. Reading more about this site, it appears to be a tool for convention organizers to handle their registration, so it only has cons using its tools. This is a very narrow focus, so I can’t recommend it for finding a con in your area.

Lastly, if you can’t find anything local on these lists, do a google search for gaming conventions in your area. Once you find them, add them to the other lists so it is easier for others to find them. If you have an FLGS (Friendly Local Game Store), make sure that the local con is advertised there. If you are looking for people to play with in person, the FLGS and local cons are the way to go. The online sites for finding players only seem to work when you are closer to major metropolitan areas. Unless you want to drive an hour or more one way. Those sites are only as good as those who sign up. If there are none in your area, or none with an interest in your area of interest, you will be disappointed.

Crit Success Rings – A Review

Back in March, 2016 at GaryCon 8, +Satine Phoenix gave a bunch of us these d20 rings, that you can wear and roll a d20. Very cool.

They are CritSuccess rings.

They take a bit of working the grit out, dish soap & warm water work well. Once you have them spinning freely, they seem to generate random numbers.

It is a cool trinket for those of us who collect dice and other game memorabilia.

I can see using them for a DM roll of a d20, if it needed to be secret.

They also have rings for other single dice and multi-dice combinations like 3d6. If you really like a ring or two on every finger, this might be for you.

Getting Ready for UCon 2016

I  just submitted four OSR track games to run at UCon in November.

Two are written and I could run right now, but I hope to play test at the local game store, and eventually the other two, when they are ready.

One is an idea I’ve had for a while, but needs fleshing out.

The fourth is a very loose idea that still needs work.

I am looking forward to this! I haven’t ran a game since Marmalade Dog in February.  I’m in two Roll20 AD&D games, but not running anything at the moment.

I’m forcing order on my life, now that some of the unexpected chaos has settled. This will force me to work on running something either at the FLGS or online.

Here are the systems and the blurbs for the catalog.

Quest for ARLOK3 [Still in the works]

It has long been a right of passage of the tribe/village for those who have come of age to make the journey to ARLOK3. Those who return are welcomed as fit adults and future leaders of the village.

I have interest for Roll20 play testers for MA. If you are interested, drop me a line. This is one that I still have to work on, so if you’re interested, I’ll let you know when I’m ready.

The Kiel Experiment [Ready – needs polish/playtesting]

German scientists in conjunction with the German Navy at Kiel performed an experiment informed by information smuggled out of America about the Philadelphia Experiment.

The experiment was successful in masking the ship, but caused unintended side effect on the crew and opened an inter-dimensional portal that unleashed “something”.

The opening of the portal emitted a signal that was detected by allied scientists in Philadelphia, and its import relayed up the command chain.

Slim Pickings Or Bountiful Harvest? [Still in the works]

Your band of freelancers has gotten word of a massive space battle that will be over by the time you arrive to salvage what the warring parties left behind.

The Dire Druids of Delver’s Deep [Ready – needs polish/playtesting]

Delver’s Deep is a well known adventure location. In recent months, some mysterious druids have occupied The Deep, as it is known to locals. This order of druids wear black robes, and their tight lips have led to rumors and gossip about their real nature and purpose. It is “common knowledge” that they are an evil cult practicing human sacrifice. Like most villagers, they mind their business, hoping that is enough to protect them; yet are glad to take the coins from selling
supplies to the druids.

Marmalade Dog 21

Marmalade Dog 21 was Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, March 18-20, 2016, at Western University in Kalamazoo, Michigan. I had planned to attend today and play in the first slot, but I woke up with a stuffy nose and ear, and a sore throat.

We did not have an official OSR slot this year, like we did last year. I have decided that once we find out when Marmalade Dog is next year that I will step up and coordinate an OSR track. The exception is if it is the same weekend as Gary Con. Last year, the convention was in early February, so I asked if they know yet when it will be next year. The answer is that the university tells them what date they can have, or occasionally what dates they can choose from. So such a variable makes it understandable why it isn’t consistent with the month they have it. I live in southern Kalamazoo County, so am only about 20 minutes away from campus.

Normally the deadline for GM sign up to run games, and get free admission, for each day that they run a session, and a t-shirt, is December 31. I didn’t get signed up to run a game by then. In February, I looked and there were some OSR type games, but three sessions the first, fifth, and seventh, did not have any. So I signed up at the website for the first and fifth session, and was not automatically rejected. I never got an email for confirmation that I wasn’t rejected. So last weekend, I went to the website and checked, and my sign ups were on the list of scheduled games. I then hurried up and got ready.

Session 1: 3:00 pm on Friday. As with last year, no one showed up to my game. If things work out to coordinate an OSR track next year, we’ll have to drum up enough players to commit to a first session game.  I ran the same thing for Session 5 on Saturday.

Session 2: Friday was 7:30 pm – 11:30 pm. +Forest Ray ran a Swords & Wizardry Complete setting, called Muskets & Magic Users. It was S&W with muskets. We were first level adventurers hired by the town to go stop the pirates who raided their town. Non magic users got issued a musket that did 1d12, that fired once per round. Magic users got a wand of magic missile that had 5 first level spells per day and regenerated its charges overnight.

That was a fun little session, and my magic user used Charm Person to make a “friend” of one of the pirates that was on the raiding party that came into the tavern where we were. This made it easier to find the other pirates in the raiding party, secure their boat, and go out to their ship. We managed to take the ship and go clean out the pirate hideout, then go fight the dragon ship of the pirate queen. It was a fun game.

Forest always hands out goodies for his games, and we each got a bag of dice and a button with the name of his game, and the rules system. Forest came down from Lansing and got a hotel to run and play games all three days. In addition to swag, he brought 3 copies of Swords & Wizardry Complete for reference. I didn’t bring mine as I was already lugging three AD&D Player Handbooks, the OSRIC Player Handbook, and a DMG for my earlier session.

Muskets & Magic Users
Muskets & Magic Users

Charles, who played in one of my sessions of Homlett from last year, and was looking forward to my game Saturday night. He said he runs Swords & Wizardry sometimes. He actually lives in my town, but I lost his number. I put it in my cell so I can’t lose it. We also had a couple, Joseph and Priscilla, who played S&W for the first time and had a blast. They were both experienced gamers. He lives in a town about 15 miles south of me, so we are planning to get together IRL for gaming. She lives about a half hour away in the other direction. We had one other player, and I am blanking on the name. I did not think to take a picture of play at the table.

Session 3: 10:00 am on Saturday, I played DCC’s Frozen in Time as a 0-level funnel, by +Mike Carlson.  Mike came down from Lansing for the day. I played this funnel with him last year. Others had played it, but I didn’t remember most of the key details, so it was like a new adventure. I only remembered things as we encountered them. It was a good time. We had a full table with 6 players. Four of us were experienced gamers with DCC experience. The other two were a couple, Seth had RPG experience, and this was Gretchen’s first roleplaying experience. She had a good time. This couple lives about an hour away, in Benton Harbor, so they are having a challenge finding a group. +Clayton Williams from Lansing and +James DeYonke and his friend Dave, from Ann Arbor, one and two hours away, respectively.

DCC at Marmalade Dog 21
DCC at Marmalade Dog 21

Session 4: 3:00 pm, Saturday. +Forest Ray ran Da Orkz Iz Back, a White Star scenario. I meant to bring my White Star books, but didn’t think to set them out, or put in my bag before I went to bed. This was the first time I had played White Star. Mike Carlson joined in, as did Charles, Joseph, and Priscilla from the night before in Muskets and Magic Users.

Forest & Players White Star
Forest & Players White Star
White Star At Marmalade Dog 21
White Star At Marmalade Dog 21

This was a scenario that needed at least one Star Knight and one pilot with the rest mercenaries. I rolled up a very uncharismatic Star Knight, and we had two pilots and two mercenaries. We were hired to investigate the loss of contact with Altair 6, a relatively new colony. There was no contact with the Star Knight Monastery, the city, and the star port. We found that legendary orcs who were thought to be myth were real, and were working with a couple of Void Knights. My Star Knight couldn’t hit the Void Knight with his star sword. The rest of the party gunned down the other Void Knight and one of the pilots picked up his void knight sword and managed to stab the void knight I was fighting. In another combat, I finally managed to hit something with my star sword. I was much better when I was shooting my blaster pistol.

Da Orkz Iz Back
Da Orkz Iz Back

Session 5: 7:00 pm on Saturday. I ran a scenario based on an area of my home campaign that I wanted to flesh out – Ogre Island and the Black Crate. I will write up a separate article on this.

Sunday has two sessions, Session 6 at 11:00 am and  7 at 3:30 pm.

Session 6: Forest ran Mutant University using the Mutant Future system. I had planned to attend that before I woke up with a cold and no energy.

Session 7: did not have any what I thought were obvious OSR games. I was thinking of playing a game of Fate, which I have never played. Maybe next year.

What I learned from this experience.

  • I need to commit to this local con, since it is in my backyard. As long as it does not conflict with Gary Con or other things I want to do, I will go.
    • If it is the same weekend as Gary Con, I can still try to coordinate an OSR track, for any not going to Gary Con.  I can recruit an assistant to handle things of the actual weekend.
  • Last year, after I saw how much time it took me to get ready to run Village of Homlet, I decided it would have been just as easy to come up with my own scenario that I would know like the back of my hand.
    • This idea proved true. I used the opportunity to flesh out an area of my campaign I had been wanting to do for a long time.
  • People will drive from a couple hours away to come for Saturday. A strong OSR presence could attract a lot more people.
    • Advertising on G+ an other outlets could increase the attendance.
    • Keep the line of communication open with other players from the region.
  • If you run a 6 person game, you get one folding table that is just big enough. If you run an 8 person game you get two folding tables.
  • Swag is cool. Perhaps publishers would provide swag, or templates for GM’s to make their own swag.
    • DCC has some cool stuff with bookmarks, buttons, pens, pencils, and more.

Mark Hunt – An Interview – The Return of GangBusters

I knew +Mark Hunt from G+ and just happened to meet him at +John Reyst’s Open Gaming Store booth. I recalled seeing a post about Gangbusters, but it had not clicked that it was back. Mark has a license to the GangBusters game! I first learned of Mark with his prolific postings of items for White Star. Many know him for his DCC setting Drongo.

Mark was signing a Gangbuster’s box, and it had the look and size of what I remember from 30+ years ago. The guy asked Mark to sign it and I was really puzzled, thinking it was an original boxed set, until Mark explained that it was his game.

We talked about collaborating on some things in multiple genres/rule systems, one of them being Gang Busters! Wow! I haven’t played in 30+ years, so I guess I need to brush up on the rules….

I did a phone interview with Mark on Saturday, March 12th. Before I started asking interview questions, he mentioned that he is good for the next 3 or 4 years of putting stuff out on a regular basis.

Interview Questions

When did you get your start in RPG’s?
Summer 1979. D&D Red Box and Blue Box. One day in Jr. High, we talked about it in the  Lunch room & met up after school.

What games have you played?
Call of Cthulhu, AD&D, probably hundreds since then. Powers & Perils, Champions, you name it, I played it. I have played every year since then. I once played Champions two years straight.

What games have you ran?
I have ran pretty much just about every game. Which helped a lot with game design, you have to play games and know what is out there, if you want to make games.

I’ve been running GangBusters since 1983. I have enough stuff on hard drive to fill a dozen books without even trying.

What games do you still play or run?
GangBusters, D&D, Swords of the Empire, DCC, Basic, Swords & Sorcery, C&C, Call of Cthulhu, and boardgames, just games, our group tries to keep playing.

How many women players have you had in all of your games?
Dozens, our first group had women back in 1979, and 3 or 4 at a time all the way to the present. It’s easy.

Does you wife play?
No

Does it cause problems?
No, she plays computer games, some are RPG’s, just not table top.

What does she think of your endeavors?
She likes it, especially when they start cashing in. I take what I make and roll it into producing the next game.

Have you ever had a woman GM?
Yes, a few. They are just like everyone else.  I’ve played all over the world so I had all the kinds of game masters that you can think of.

You played all over the world because you were in the Air Force?
Yes for six years and it included the1st Gulf War. We used to play Twilight 2000 in Germany back in the 80’s. A game where we go to war with Russia and get stranded in Europe when it happens. We used all the strategies and tactics we knew, and we had more authenticity than most people.

You seem to have an eclectic taste in genres and historical periods, do you find it hard to focus with so many different irons in the fire?
No.

Why not?
I like to read all kinds of stuff. I know a lot about this, this and this. If there is something you need to know, read a book. My dad says, They hide things they don’t want people to know in a book. A game designer should always be reading, and learning more stuff.

You got your start, at least in my experience, of publishing ships, classes, and supplements for White Star. Was that your real start?It was actually Drongo, then Planetary Transmission and some free items for White Star.

NOTE: Drongo is a DCC compatible setting.

I know you have a Napoleonic era game in the works, and other things, what can you tell us about that?
Swords of the Empire will be ready by the beginning of next month. People can follow on the G+ page and watch development of it, and see how it has changed and evolved. I revise based on feedback from others’ comments in the community.

The latest project seems to be a runaway success – GangBusters.
Is that a game you played back in the day?
NOTE: See above, he’s been playing and GMing it since it came out in 1983.

What made you decided to go for a license to GangBusters?
It was just sitting there and I just asked if I can use it and it went from there. If I like it, there has to be others that like it. If I can sell enough and it can pay for the effort I put into it, all the better.

Is it an exclusive license, that is, are you the only one licensed to do anyting with GB?
So far, I’m the only one out there. I’m working on several things, just making stuff work. I can’t go into more detail at this time.

How hard was it to get the license to do this?
More or less I just asked Rick Krebs and he was receptive. I can’t get into any details on that either. There is stuff [other famous IP] that people can probably pick up if they put in some effort to research it. It is not impossible, is the best I can say.

What did Rick Krebs say when you asked him, was he excited?
Others had talked to him and it never went anywhere, so I showed him what I can do and he purchased it and reviewed it. When the writer likes it and says keep doing it, that’s a seal of approval.

Why the twist with the “Weird Tales & Paranormal Investigations?
Actually it existed in the original setting. In Polyhedron magazine, they had an adventure with giant bugs that took over a farm. I did not create it out of thin air, it existed in some shape or form in the original game.
The original game talked about various ideas for how to expand it. All I did was expand it. I read all the articles where they mentioned GangBusters. I am making it modular so you can use or not, or expand or not, cause at the end of the day it is still a game of cops & robbers. If you can’t find an adventure after a night of watching TV, with so many police procedurals that are on now, I can’t help you, NCIS, X-files, etc. Warehoue 13, Thin Man, etc. There is so much that fits.
Me – It’s seeing the connections.
Mark – Exactly. I increased the book size to show what you can do with it. It doesn’t have to be just gangsters. You can do journalists. The Incredible Hulk is about new reporter chasing the Hulk cross country. The players  could be a pool of reporters in an Enquirer type organization.
Me – GangBusters is set in the same time period as H.P. Lovecraft was writing.
Mark – I’m staying away from the Cthulhu mythos, there is more out there than just that.
If you want to play Call of Cthulhu play it, it’s a great game. If you want to go in different directions, play my game. Play GangBusters, there is enough out there to keep you busy

I really like the NPC card decks, what was your inspiration for those?
Old police mugshots. I make cards with mugshots, with enough stats to run. I made the first 18, then another 18, and eventually I’ll have a full deck of 52 cards. Literally take a card and you are ready to play. At Gary Con I passed out cards, and said, this is what stats mean and we were up and running in minutes. NPC’s, bad guys, players, etc. They are small and portable. Once you know the rules that’s all you need. Keep it in your wallet and you’re ready to play whenever and wherever. [See this YouTube video for a sample of the cards.]

Me – They make a great tool for a pick up or convention game for pre-gens. There was a lot of buzz from those who played in the games Mark ran.

It’s been mentioned on the G+ TSR GangBusters Community, that you plan to do a Kickstarter. I know that you have a goal to have everything ready before the Kickstarter and to keep it manageable. How much can you tell us about that?
I’m still working on it. Eventually there will be a box set, hard back book, GM screen, and modules, plus add ons will all be figured out and done. So once we hit our goal and are funded, I will order and ship. I did a test run of box sets, and people are impressed with what I have now. Some have shipped to Spain, England, all over world now. I hope a Kickstarter will help it reach a bigger area.

When might we get wind of the Kickstarter?
Depends on when I get done with something in the background – I can’t talk about it – then preparing for the Kickstarter will start to speed up.

What is the secret to your prolific output? I ask, because it is an amazing story that just floored me. I was giving you a hard time at Gary Con to slow down because you’re making the rest of us look bad.
Last year was my last chemo – I was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma and going through treatments. I said to myself, “If this is my last year, I’m going to do what I want to do,” and I literally drove myself to do these games, even if only 5 words in a day. After a year, I had a lot. I just hacked it out piece by piece. “Never give up, never surrender,” as they say. Marks’ wife can be heard in the background: “He’s not going to do anything else. By Grapthar’s hammer….”
To the outside world it appeared like I was cranking it out fast, it seemed like a lot real fast. As they say, an overnight success is ten year’s worth of work. A lot of games that blew up were simmering in the background and no one paid attention until they got done.

You mentioned you were seeking a license to do a game with a big name, and well-know IP, but it fell through. 
Any clues to other IP’s you have your eye on? (Probably not, since you don’t want to spoil it.)
Exactly. I’m always looking for more stuff, but can’t mention them, so I don’t get scooped. If it’s not being used, why not? A Lot of stuff is just sitting quietly. It’s not hard if you do the work and ask. The worst they can say is, “No.”
Drongo for DCC is mine and I can always go and do a BX version. As long as I don’t compete with one of their [Goodman Games] products it should be OK.

Any hints about projects coming up?
Oh geeze, let me look at my hard drive. I’ve thought about one or two retroclones, but will mention those when the time is right. I don’t want it all at once, that is, I want to spread it out. Cloaked Avengers is a new class for GangBusters in the next month, like the Shadow. You can add to an existing GangBusters game with mysterious powers. I’m also working on a WWI alternate history for GangBusters.  I plan to stage so it’s not out all at once, and do one or two adventures to flesh out stuff  I already have.

Joe’s Diner was 6 or 7 pages, then 18, then 32, then I made little booklets. The PDF is automatically updated, so it’s done. The only way to get it in book form is in the boxed set.
Me – That’s a smart way to drive sales.
Mark – Exactly.

Have you seen all the talk about yesterday’s press release about the new TableTop Library site?
Yes. I’m thinking about trying to sell stuff there, it’s one more avenue for sales.

Anything else you want us to know about?
Hit me up on G+ if you see me, and help out get the word out, Swords of the Empire, GangBusters , Fantasy game – no name yet. Everything is just falling into place so fast it is ridiculous. I might have Boxed sets [of the yet to be named and released fantasy game ] at NTRPGCon.

GangBusters boxed sets and T-Shirts, and Swords of the Empire boxed sets will definitely be at North Texas RPG Con.

– – –

Mark is a really nice guy, easy to talk to, and inviting. Other aspiring game designers were asking him to look at their stuff, and he was looking forward to it. He knows game mechanics. Just wjile talking about general ideas, he had an idea for something. Being in his presence, I couldn’t help but be infected by his enthusiasm for games. If we lived in the same town, I’d find a way to play in his games.

Mark is enjoying life and riding this dream of designing games and having a blast while doing it. I expect to hear exciting things in the coming weeks.