Category Archives: GaryCon

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.

THURSDAY

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.

FRIDAY

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.

SATURDAY

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

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.

PLAYTESTING

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

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.

WASD20

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.

 

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!

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.

Tim Kask Talk – First Five Years At TSR

Here’s a write up from GaryCon 8 from back in March I hadn’t published yet.

I attended a session by Tim Kask on Riding the Rocket: TSR’s First 5 Years. I missed the first twenty minutes or so, but I enjoyed it immensely. Tim recommended that we read the book Orcs, and that it changed his view on orcs, and that he no longer sees them as just meat sacks.

Pat Kilbane filmed Tim’s presentation for use in his D&D Documentary. I had the honor of asking the last question, “What was the thing you like best about working at TSR, and what was the thing you liked least or might want to do differently in hindsight?” Others besides Pat also recorded his response on video, I wish I had. Basically, he voiced his disapproval of the Blume’s business acumen. He said that he loved working with Gary and having so much fun. The second thing he liked was the opportunity to go back to teaching.

Pat’s YouTube channel, Dorks Of Yore published most of the interview in a series of short snippets. You can see them all in this Tabetop RPGs playlist, along with their initial video about GaryCon. Alas, my question didn’t appear in these snippets, but will be in the final product. However, this screenshot from an FB comment I made and Pat’s reply is fantastic!

Awesome!
Awesome!

Gary Con Panel – Goodman Games – How To Write Adventure Modules The Don’t Suck

I have played a few DCC funnels at conventions and a few modules at the gaming table. I’ve even been a player in a play test of a module. I can’t mention that, but if my name shows up in the acknowledgements, you’ll know which one(s).

DCC seems to have a lot of interest in their modules, so I wanted to hear what their designers had to say. If I never have a published module, at least I can use the information to help design my own sessions, and games at conventions.

The panelists were Joseph Goodman, Michael Curtis, Jobe Bitman, Brendan LaSalle, and Bob Bledsaw, Jr. There were 20-25 in attendance, among whom were 3 women. When it came time to ask questions, only one of the women asked a question. That’s a significant ratio. What I wonder, is were the other two just there with their male S.O.’s, or were they really gamers with an interest in such things. Just my musings, no data to back up any of it.

What follows are just the transcription of my hastily scribbled and sometimes illegible notes. There are a lot of good points here for planning adventures in your own games, in addition to developing modules for publication.

Joseph Goodman started off by telling us that they have done this seminar multiple times before, and this time wanted to start off with each person telling what things inspire them.

1.) Things that inspire us to get a good output.

Michael Curtis

  • All writers are readers
    • Always have a notebook when reading – make note of certain words that evoke ideas, feelings, etc.
    • Follow up on ideas an author does not pursue.

Jobe Bitman

  • Movies, especiall humor.
  • Camping & hiking
  • New museum
  • New locations and feeling what the experience is like and relate to a fantasy world setting.
    • For ex. hiking is hard work, and there’s no way characters pack all the stuff they say that they do.

Brendan LaSalle

  • Big reader
  • Movies
  • Good TV
  • Poetry
  • Music – Heavy Metal Power Cords
  • Steals a lot of bad guy lines from comic books.

Bob Bledsaw, Jr. (Insight on how his dad prepared for campaigns & modules, from all the materials he left.)

  • Edgar Rice Burroughs, Robert Heilein, A. C. Clarke, poetry
  • Actually running campaigns
    • Notebooks filled with names of inns, NPC’s with brief designations, random monsters, and names & backgrounds for magical items.
    • Village book, fantastic weapons, Temple book, etc.
    • His father didn’t like to lead players.
    • Look at an inn as each class. How does a mage see this inn, a cleric, a thief?
    • What about a monster or obstacle is a problem for a cleric?
    • Leave world open

Joe Goodman

  • Goes to places with unique features
    • Elephant seal hatchery – they are 2,000 pounds and the size of a VW.
  • Monarch butterfly breeding ground – view through fantasy lens
  • Hurst castle
  • Wild zebras on beach near California coastal highway.
  • Alcatraz was a military island citadel before it was a prison.
  • Art and comic books

I think it was Brendan LaSalle who said these two things.

  1. Read Strunk & Whites Manual of Style once per year.
  2. Read what you have written out loud, or have someone read it to you with the Last Draft. If it doesn’t read well, it won’t play well.

A common theme was to playtest a module multiple times to get the flow and pacing right. You have to know how it will play out before you publish it. Someone said if it is a TPK every time, then it’s too hard. If about half the party survives, then it’s about right.

2.) One thing they love and one thing they hate.

Brendan

Love: Brilliant little detail, for ex. Legacy of Savage Kings has a dragon in a cavern with the coins of his treasure lovingly stacked along the wall.

Hate: No matter what happens, you can’t change what happens. He gave examples of NPC’s you can’t kill, or some other thing that no matter what they do it won’t change. It is better to think of what will happen if they kill this NPC, etc. Trust your DM (who will run the module). ALWAYS put the players center stage as the main characters of the story.

Michael

Love: Enjoys ambiguity to cause reader and player to imagine options, avoids set in stone. Leave it up to recipient to fill in the blanks.

Hate: Story should emerge and not be stuck in a narrative since it is a participatory game.

Bob

Be a storyteller, not a story dictator.

Jobe

Hate: Really long details with buried information the DM or player’s need. Make it easy to find.

Joseph

Players are the audience, but the GM is the customer. Word count for GM/Judge is wasted, 1-2 pages at most. Pages should be for the benefit of the players.

3.) How bring ideas together?

Bob – List of Hobbits, only with warrior sounding names. His father’s notes were rich in lore from the books he read.

Michael – Pick three things and create a riff on it. Then come up with a brief synopsis, elevator pitch.

Brendan – Do like Shakespeare – Steal/steal/steal. What if it is a murder mystery?
Take random ideas and throw them at specific thing for the background to see where it goes and what happens.
He is a firm believer in a crappy first draft, just get it done, then refine it.

Michael – If nothing else, do something that you enjoy and are passionate about. Find a way to make it an adventure.

Bob – Don’t let your own misgivings stop you from paying or publishing.

Joseph – Get practice, especially with random stuff.

Bob – Some people have favorite modules that are not what is the most popular. Someone will like it, even if not everyone.

4.) How break out of the linear mindset?

Michael – Don’t make decisions for the players, just set the scene.

Bob – If there is an intriguing hook, it will draw them in.

Mike – For publication there is a set word count. How might players overcome this obstacle. Come up with 3 or 4 things.

Brendan – Billy goat Gruff, but 25th level character. Create a setting and villains. You can’t cover all your bases. Trust your GM.

Joseph – Mental checklist of

  • Player choices
  • There is a chance for every player to shine.
  • Visual Descriptions – Use hulking humanoid instead of just saying orc.
  • No ziggurats – New and exciting ideas.
  • Good title
  • Good summary  – Focused enough to do a 2 or 3 sentence description – elevator pith.

5.) Bad guy development

Leave as many decisions as possible up to the players.

Base on someone you don’t like.

Don’t lock the front door to the dungeon.

Don’t leave necessary information in an inaccessible place.

No lock without a key. This can be a secret door, or another way around the obstacle. Always a way around it.

Brendan – Once you decide what he is, Imagine as your character or you personally. Such as a dragon or necromancer.
What will you do to stop adventurers?
What will you fail at?

Q&A

How get into the situation?/Start the setting for the adventure? (This was my question. I have trouble getting a good starting point for adventures.)

Brendan – In media res [In the middle of the action/story.] especially for a module, one-shot, or convention game.

Joseph – Robert E. Howard – In media res.

Brendan – Let the players screw themselves. Maybe they are all clerics, so they need hirelings to fill in the gaps. Always have a situation that requires dealing with magic.

Jobe – 1.) Be comfortable with system you are using, and just knowing the system might give you an idea.

2.) Avoid crating bottlenecks, have some secondary way to achieve the goal. A “key” to every lock doesn’t have to be literal.

Joseph – Easter Egg – Some benefit to players that test everything and one room *. Game changers – Players wreck the story line, handle it at the table.

Word count/size?

Brendan – Have a set number of encounters for four hours. For a convention setting, 6 to 8 encounters for four hours. Most modules can be played in four hours.

Jobe – Word count – Write as expressively as possible in the lowest word count.

Joseph – c. 10,000 words is about 16 pages in the format of Goodman Games’ modules.

How develop balance in a module? How do you know you have it right?

Brendan – Playtest/Playtest/Playtest as much as you can before publishing. Run at conventions, local game store with people you don’t know. A minimum of 3 times to playtest, once with friends, twice at conventions, no upper limit really.

Michael – Six months after it is released, you will know if the balance is right.

Jobe – If more than have killed, then still needs work. If less than half killed, then it’s probably pretty good.

Bob – Be prepared for anything. There should be enough source material to plan for unexpected things players do. Always leave a way out of a tough situation, but don’t make it easy.

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.

Gary Con VIII – Podcasting Panel

The Gary Con Podcast Panel, with hosts from Game School, Gaming and BS, Cube of Death, Drink Spin Run, and Dead Games Society discussed gear, and other practical aspects of podcasting.

I am interested in podcasting, but I’m not sure that I have what it takes to make it a regular thing. I went to get some insight into the process. The basics to get started are less than $100 on the low end, to unlimited. This is not a formal article, but more my notes on the discussion.

The panel was recorded, so it is intended to be shared somewhere. Until then, here is a very quick outline of the presentation from my notes. I look forward to the recording so I can figure out what a couple of quick scribbles are in my notes.

Tech

Each podcast host mentioned the gear they use and things to consider when getting gear for your own podcast.

The bare minimum needed is a microphone, headphones, and a way to edit sound. Less than $100 if use free sound editor.

  • Microphones – 2 main types
    • condenser – wide range, very sensitive. Need to have a separate room/space to pad out noise
      • Blue Yeti
    • dynamic – Rejection – front & center
      • ATI 2100
  • Headphones
  • Sound editing program/mixer/ soundboard
    • Audacity is free sound editing program
  • Pop filter – also speaking past microphone if pop filter not enough
  • Vibration isolation
    • scissor arm
    • separate table for the microphone

Hosting

  • Can host files on your own or use a service. If host on own it can lead to limitations of bandwidth.
  • RSS Feed – This is how people find and listen to your podcast.
  • iTunes & Website – Squarespace – simple installation
  • Host file at Blueberry or Libsyn – Both have plugins for WordPress. both have $x a month plans.
  • PodBeam
  • Free at Archive.org – it is slow and can make listening choppy, or freeze.
  • Filesizes – 200 MB is too big for download, usually 30 or 40 MB.
    • There is a site that explains sound quality based on file size. good quality at around 40-50 MB

Tips & Tricks

  • Microphone Discipline:
    • Never Eat at the microphone.
    • Mute if not talking.
    • A pause from a guest is not an invitation to talk. Wait and make sure they aren’t just taking a breath.
      • Wait five seconds before you speak, they may just be taking a breath.
  • Do a pilot episode that you never share to work out the kinks.
  • Start small wit an inexpensive microphone and audacity to make sure it is something you can and want to do before laying out large sums on high end equipment.
  • Longevity gets guests.
  • Podcast fade – Most podcasts fail within 7 episodes.
  • G+ Podcasting Community
  • Make a thing you are interested in so that you keep doing it.
  • Don’t set self up for failure.
  • What value do you bring to the community with your podcast?
    • Content – What is your niche? (Avatar)
    • Conversation
    • Scripted topics of discussion
      • Plan episodes from a storytelling perspective. Does not need to be a complete script, but an outline to guide the conversation.
  • Podcast: Out On The Wire on Public Radio.
  • Avoid long intros
  • Avoid upspeak. this was a particular pet peeve of one presenter, and I must say, I agree with him.
  • Listen to other podcasts to figure out what you like.
  • Half hour podcast is ideal. (80% of people listen to podcasts on the commute to & from work or otherwise in their cars.)
  • Getting Guests & Good Interviews
    • Guest Dock – Form on site the guest fill out. Pick 3 things you want to talk about in order of importance & have them write their own third person bio, and any NSFW disclosures.
    • What is on & off the table?
  • Logistics:
    • Acts or segments to break it up. Used a timer
      • Show notes to reference the time of each segment.
    • Length of show
    • Audio bumpers after each segment.
    • Grab Bag – old quick idea for a topic. (Originated with boring guests.)
    • Call & Oates – Hall & Oates on crappy MIDI.
    • Shared Google Drive for collaborators to work on scripts, planning, etc.
  • Hosting – Solo, or with a co-host.
  • Facts/Interviews/Learn Things
  • Host Chemistry is important is multiple hosts.
  • Have some in the can, that way you can take a day off.
    • Record several sessions before post the first one, if a weekly podcast.
  • Have a location where you record that is limited on errant sounds, such as traffic, family members, pets, etc.

Promotion

  • How grow audience?
    • Social Media
    • G+ community – put post after done recording episode announcing the topic, and another when it is posted.
    • Twitter feed.
    • Mailing List – email sign up.
    • Do a guest show & the very best it can be
    • Audience participation
    • Mention what you liked on other podcasts
    • Crossover/cross promotion
      • Not hard to get other podcasters on your show
      • Increase Luck Surface Area

Pet Peeves on Podcasts

  • Interrupting guests
  • Excessive rants
  • Laughing at something for no reason.
    • No nervous laughter
  • Not passing important visual queue to the audience
    • ex. Look at this, when audio only.
  • Super long intros & transitions (bumpers)
    • 15 second into. tops
  • Forced Academia – Level of pompousness/arrogance
    • Don’t condescend
    • No bad/wrong fun
    • Don’t shit in pool

Audience Questions

  • How handle multiple guests?
    • How “GM” the interview?
  • How do you triage or post-mortem each episode? (My question)
    • Pay attention to each piece
    • Take notes
    • Feedback from listeners
    • LISTEN to each episode the very next day.
      • What was good, what can be done better, what segment doesn’t fit, etc.
    • Listen to yourself.
      • You will find things in the way you speak and your own vocal quirks that you want to fix.
  • What is the right ratio of recording the show to editing?
    • Silence is no problem at all.
    • Don’t fix everything.
      • Max 4 hours to fix a one hour show.
      • Find the right ratio of re
      • Editing is the difference between a good show and a great show.

[Update: Added links to Part I and Part II of the recorded panel at Dead Games Society.]

A Solo Presentation and Chat With Michael Witwer

Following the presentation, Growing Up Gygax, there was another presentation by Michael Witwer, Genesis: Unexpected Journey of Gary Gygax. The word that this event was moved did not happen, or else I was the only one signed up. There was audio visual trouble, so we just sat down next to each other and he ran the Power Point on his laptop.

Michael identified the correct name of the sanatorium Gary explored as a youth, with its below ground tunnels. He referred to them as steam tunnels or laundry tunnels. At the mention of steam tunnels, I found it oddly ironic about the “steam tunnel guy” in the 80’s.

Gary called it the Oak Hill Sanitarium. It was actually the Oak Wood Sanitorium on Catholic Hill, so Oak and Hill were put together, causing the difficulty. When Gary was young, the building still stood and the steam or laundry tunnels were still accessible. There were also holding cells, very much a dungeon setting.

It was cool to sit down and talk a bit about his book, Empire of Imagination, etc. Recently, the audiobook version came out. Next the paper back is forthcoming and will have additions and corrections. Michael is super cool and a nice guy. He has ideas for other books, but he’s not sure if he’ll ever do another biography. I bought a copy of Michael’s book, and got his autograph.

On Saturday, before I left, I ran into Stephen Sullivan, and got a copy of the color print of his map for the end pages for Empire of Imagination.

I only wish I had the energy and drive to brave the cold and find some of the sights. It’s only fours hours or so away, so I might try when it’s a bit warmer, and make a weekend drive of it.

Stephen Sullivan map for Empire of Imagination
Stephen Sullivan map for Empire of Imagination

D&D Documentary Number 3 – Rebuilding Trust

While at Gary Con, I attended a session titled, D&D Documentary Teaser and Q&A. Pat Kilbane is working on a D&D documentary. It is a third documentary totally unrelated to the other two documentaries now tied up in litigation*.  There is enough about this documentary to impress me, that I decided on the spot to write up a separate article to give it the focus it deserves. In short, I will do what I can to promote it.

My new friend, +Satine Phoenix, is one of the interviewees in the three clips we were shown, and she happened to join in, as she was early for Frank Mentzer’s D&D game in the same room, following this 1 hour session.

I wish I had the foresight to record this. It was a good discussion, and my notes were only on the high points. As more comes along, I will mention it here on my blog.

Satine & Pat after the presentation.
Satine & Pat after the presentation.

The three interviews in the sneak peak were with:

So far, shooting for those on the West coast has been done. Next, while at Gary Con, he is interviewing all the old guard from the beginning to get their perspective. He filmed a session by Tim Kask on the first five years of TSR. I had the honor of asking the last question.

Rather than have yet another Kickstarter for a D&D documentary, when the previous two are tied up in litigation, Pat wants to focus on building trust with the intended audience. His idea is to do small two minute pieces as part of a Patreon to create a track record of delivering smaller bits, until there is enough trust to do some form of fundraiser, such as Kickstarter.

An example of the short videos he envisions is the Gary Con Two-Minute History video, featuring Luke Gygax explaining what Gary Con is.

You can follow Pat’s efforts on the Facebook page, Dorks of Yore.

*Full disclosure, I am in for and most likely out $50 for the second documentary’s Kickstarter, The Great Kingdom. The first film that Kickstarted is Dungeons & Dragons: A Documentary, which I missed the Kickstarter altogether. You can find details of the trials and tribulations of these two films with your google-fu. I want to stay positive and show what Pat is doing. As with most of us, I think we just want any film, that is well done, to come out while the old guard is still available.