Solo Roleplaying

Solo roleplaying may seem counter-intuitive to many.  Playing an RPG solo instead of with a GM and other players. The idea goes way back to at least the late 1970’s, if not earlier. With the 1st Edition AD&D Dungeon Masters Guide, there are tables to generate random dungeons. One can use table to determine random encounters, NPC personalities, etc. Also in that time frame were the choose your own adventure books. The first computer RPGs were text based solo forays into dungeons or ruins.

Way back when, I tried to do solo play using the tables in the DMG, but did not have the patience for it. I have read other’s postings about their efforts in solo RPG play in recent years, and even follow the Lone Wolf Roleplaying G+ Community. Two people that I follow on G+ for other reasons, +Matt Jackson for maps & RPG ideas, and +Sophia Brandt who does great reviews and gives a non-US take on RPGs.

Today, I am home sick with no voice, and I watched a Hangout hosted by +Ray Otus, with Sophia as special guest on the topic of solo RPGs. While watching this and hearing the different perspectives, and discussing ways to handle the GM piece of the puzzle, I felt inspired to try solo play again.

My Approach

Since AD&D 1e is my go to game, and I focus my blog on the OSR, I got to thinking about the tools available to me. Use the standard hexcrawl model. Town is safe and not the place of adventure. Maybe ask the barkeep or some other person in town where one can find adventure. Use the NPC personality traits tables to flesh out the NPCs to get an idea of how helpful or expensive their information might be. Then use the hexcrawl rules to determine the surrounding terrain and weather. The dungeon/ruins/source of adventure is a certain direction and so many miles/days from town. Use the chance of getting lost, and if the character(s) know they are lost. This would require having enough food, or ability to forage for food. Have random encounters, etc. The monster reaction table and morale tables would come in handy. Use the random dungeon tables to determine the entrance to the dungeon.

One could use different tools for decision making, such as Rory’s Story Cubes, decks of cards, the d30 Sandbox Companion, d30 GM Companion, GM Emulator, etc. There are also many solo play engines discussed at the Lone Wolf G+ Community. There are so many useful tables out there in the OSR, that you can take your favorites to build your own solo play method.

Hexcrawl Practice

I see this as one way for a GM to practice running a hexcrawl and finding the method that works best for them. One could even use solo hexcrawl play to build a sandbox for future group play. For example, use this to build the back story of your region in the starting hexcrawl. Something along the lines of How to Host a Dungeon. I’m not sure how well that would work in practice, but I see it as a way for a GM to be a player in their own world.

One of the other common uses of solo play is testing one’s own game, adventure, or custom classes,  new monsters, or house rules. It would also be a good way to try out a new ruleset to make sure one knows it before group play.

You can roll dice, or use tools like NBOS’ Inspiration Pad, for quick results once your tables are built.

There are lots of free and low cost solo play engines. One could also use rules light systems like Swords & Wizardry Light or RISUS, or even FATE. As with all things RPG, find what works best for you. The only way to know is to try.

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My Experience With The Satanic Panic

My direct experience with the so called Satanic Panic of the late 1970’s early 1980’s, is mild compared to some. I never had to burn any books, nor did I witness any being burned. I think my experience is probably what most experienced – being shamed into silence and avoiding stirring the pot.

40 years ago, in the spring 1977, my brother, Robert, talked me into buying the Holmes Basic Dungeons & Dragons. It was Christmas of 1978 that we traveled to Colorado and spent Christmas with the family of Dad’s sister. Mom gave me a copy of the AD&D Player’s Handbook.  My aunt commented saying are you sure that’s a good idea, giving them that book? My Mom was not one to be intimidated, and said, “No, I read it, it’s just a game.” Nevertheless, there was no gaming until we got home. This was mostly because we had so many other things to do and were surrounded by so many cousins and all the electronic gadgets, plus all the snow.

The effects of the panic were more implied displeasure, and keeping out of sight to avoid confrontation. I was raised to care way too much about other’s opinions. I don’t think that was my parents’ goal, but that was the message I lived. We lived in a small town that was all white. It was not a welcoming town for many. Still, we made trips to the mall 20 minutes away as often as we could, and got our TSR supplies from the hobby shop there. I even subscribed to Dragon magazine.

Some of the churches actively frowned on D&D, but not the one we attended. We knew which neighbors to avoid the topic of D&D, and usually which kids at school. We did start a club in our high school, but we weren’t stupid. It was called the Science Fiction Book Club to avoid issues. I was its first president. Each week, we played a different RPG after school to get a taste of each one. So we did play D&D in school, and regularly took our D&D books and Dragon magazines to school. We used money we raised to go to the Renaissance Festival, and to ConQuest in Kansas City. both were close enough to drive.

Science Fiction Book Club
Science Fiction Book Club – I’m the one with a beard.

I was interviewed by the school newspaper about the club, and the article mentioned the list of games we played, one of them being “Camel World.” It should have read Gamma World. We had a good laugh about it. That’s all I recall about the article. I wish I still had it.

We ended up with a “controversy” in the local newspaper. Someone wrote a letter to the editor about how bad Dungeons & Dragons was. It went on about promoting sacrifice with a picture of some woman on an altar under the heading Judges Guild. One of our group wrote a brilliant response. He wrote, “calling Judges Guild Dungeons & Dragons is like calling football Spalding.” The guy who wrote that was a couple years behind me in school. He did just as he said and opened a game store, which is over 20 years old and doing quite well.

Going off to college didn’t end the subconscious care I took to avoid advertising that I played D&D and other RPGs. I waited until I found that someone else played before I spoke up. While in college I played occasionally at school, but played a lot when home on breaks and over the summer.

I did a paper in high school on Franz Anton Mesmer and how Mesmerism evolved into modern hypnotism. I re-used that paper in college, with some updates. I used that knowledge a couple of times to hypnotize some friends. One loner of a guy who thought dice were somehow evil, but always sat there doing some sort of dice game with himself*, burst in and rebuked us in the name of God. That was the most intense and negative experience I think I’ve ever had about something that hurt no one. Others rose to my defense and shooed him away. [*I think he was calculating odds from rolling a pair of dice. He found that acceptable because it wasn’t a game. I think because he found enjoyment in it, it was a loophole for him to play a game. He did similar things with the equally evil deck of cards.]

After college, I answered the call to ministry and went to seminary. I was close to home then, so I played almost every weekend the first year or so, until I had a church to serve on the weekends. I bought Mega Traveller as I thought a science fiction RPG would be more acceptable. But I never played it, even though I spent a lot of time getting a campaign ready. [I recently sold those books.]

I married soon after seminary, and my now ex-wife was very much against D&D and “magic and demons”. There was no convincing her otherwise. It was a big surprise when she bought our oldest son Yu-gi-oh cards, with all of their talk of magic and spells. She also let both boys watch the Yu-gi-oh cartoon. Oddly, she didn’t see the contradiction. I spent my marriage with my books packed away most of the time, except for rare occasions that I got to play in my brother’s campaign. Moving into a new church with boxes labelled D&D got the whispers started. I “knew” I couldn’t talk about it. I didn’t know how to approach the topic in a positive way.

I took a break from serving churches 19+ years ago, and just didn’t go back. After my divorce, my sons and I played for the first time and they had a blast. We played regularly for a while. We had a two year interruption and then played nearly every weekend for almost a year. With my granddaughter’s arrival just over two years ago, we came to another hiatus. My granddaughter likes to roll my red dice and the “big dice”. It will be a few more years before she is ready for RPG’s.

I started this blog soon after my sons and I first started playing. I wanted to chronicle stories from back in the day, and some of our new experiences. When things ground to a halt with my campaign, I found Roll20 and the current weekly AD&D campaign I am in. Roll20 was after I spent way too much time trying to get my D&D fix playing Lord of The Rings Online.

It is only as I have gotten older and care a lot less about other’s opinions that I have freely let people know I play D&D. I really appreciate The Escapist‘s article on trying to do magic from D&D. That article will give you some good belly laughs. A resource like The Escapist is a great boon for our hobby, and does a lot to counter the ignorant. Countering the willfully ignorant is a different matter. Another helpful thing is Read an RPG in Public Week, three times a year. Let the world know we are here and not going away! I wish we had something like that back in the day.

I started attending game conventions again, with the local Marmalade Dog, here in Kalamazoo. I then attended UCon in Ann Arbor/Ypsilanti, and made some new friends who talked up Gamehole Con and Gary Con. Meeting up with a lot of people in the hobby who care a lot less about what others think, is a good thing. I was in a local DCC game for over a year until it went on hiatus.

I have come to realize that most of my silence about loving D&D is that I wanted to avoid arguments about it. The stress and hassle of someone unloading their crap on me was in itself a burden. I spent so much time avoiding the headache I feared from others’ disapproval, that I denied myself a lot of fun and potential new friends. That is, I think, the worst thing about the Satanic Panic. Books can be replaced, and gaming groups can be found, but the lost potential to find laughter and enjoyment in life, and new friends can never be recovered.

Rather than live with that sense of loss, look forward to what potential there is! I have friends all over the country and across the world thanks to Roll20 and different game conventions. We have a common frame of reference that allows us share in the fun. I have played with friends from different cultural and economic backgrounds, with different tastes in music and religion, and widely different takes on politics. I have even played in games I wouldn’t have tried had I not gone to a con and been made to feel welcome. In hindsight, I wasted a lot of energy avoiding fun.

Rather than edition wars and arguments about politics, we can gather around the table to defeat the bad guys, save the world, and share in the creative experience as co-creators of imaginary worlds. The vivid imagery I have in my mind from time spent at the table, and the laughter about so many situations can never be taken from me. I have made some good friends, and I’ll have their back if ever they need me.

Bonus Content: Here’s how I’ll deal with any “Christians” who want to defecate on my hobby.**

If I am every confronted by someone who thinks D&D is of the devil, then I will throw their beliefs right back at them. I will point out that Satan is the “father of lies”, and wants us to believe that he has more power than he does. He wants to distract us from being the salt of the earth, and instead be wet blankets for honest fun. Satan wants us focused on things that don’t matter, and forget to help those in need: the poor, the hungry, the orphan, the widow, the stranger. I’ll also point out that I know a lot of atheists that are better Christians than many who claim to be Christians. If that doesn’t work, I’ll take off my shoes and knock the dust off of them and walk away. (I hope I’m wearing sandals if that ever happens.)  For people who distort the Good News into a list of don’ts, and ignore the logs in their own eyes, I have no problem exposing their hypocrisy and using the Bible to combat them. The truth hurts, BS kills.

I’m the kind of person who thinks of the perfect response well after the fact. In this case, decades later. I hope that I and no one else is ever in that position. If you are, feel free to use my planned response.

**See, a Master of Divinity is good for something besides the power to say no to fudge.

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Funny Spam Comments

The spam filter on my blog does a good job at catching spam comments, so all I have to do it delete it. I glance at each suspected spam on the off chance it isn’t really spam. I haven’t had a false positive in a long time. But I have had 3 recent spam comments that were funny because of the particular blog posts that received them.

I will give a screenshot of what I see in my spam comments and the link to the actual article involved.

SPAM COMMENTS

A rant about how "bad" American women are.

A rant about how “bad” American women are. This is the least humorous of the bunch. It is only funny because of just how “bad” American women are according to the spam comment. The article is about Random Generation of Creatures From The Lower Planes in the 1e DMG. I deleted the most egregious part of the comment and blocked out the web address.

Supposed follower of my blog trying to learn from me.
Supposed follower of my blog trying to learn from me.

This comment doesn’t make a lot of sense, other than they hope to learn from my glob. The article it was posted to is Magical Protections in AD&D.

I saved the best for last.

Comment suggesting I write about life.
Comment suggesting I write about life.

I received this comment a couple weeks ago, and have gotten it more than once. It suggests that I write about life as a comment on part two of a pair of articles on Undead in AD&D. Part 1. Part 2.

If I get anymore comments that are particularly funny when paired with the article they are on, I will update this post.

Any other bloggers out there ever get any good comments that are enhanced by the choice of article they are placed?

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Planning for a Kickstarter

I shared a couple of days ago that while at Gary Con IX, I woke up with an idea for a card game that could be good enough to Kickstart. On the drive home, I had an idea for another card game that I think is also good enough to Kickstart. The second one is simpler, and thus I think a better option for a first Kickstarter.

I’ve made a checklist and a price list to determine break even points, i.e the minimum amount for a Kickstarter. I don’t have all the numbers, but it shows how little one actually makes unless the thing goes viral. One should do this for the love of creating and playing games, and not count on it for a living.

I’m interested on feedback on this list. I don’t have all the answers for some points, but I want to make sure that I avoid pitfalls. I have a few specific questions at the end under Input.

Preparation Checklist

Independent of the financial considerations, there are a lot of things to keep in mind.

  • Design, write, & play test the game.
    • Get input from trusted friends who have lots of ideas about such things.
    • Test what pens/inks/pencils will write on blank cards before making first play test deck.
  • Copyright for parts that can be copyrighted.
  • Trademark for the name of the game.
  • LLC or similar for a company to separate my personal assets from it, just in case.
  • NDA to share ideas with others, just in case.
  • Custom URL & Website for game.
  • Use DriveThru Cards for fulfillment, as they can print on demand and do individual shipping.
    • For the Kickstarter itself, can do a bulk order delivered to my home and I do the shipping, within the U.S.
  • Rules – They will need to be polished enough that your play testers understand. You also have to be flexible to revise and change through the course of play testing.
    • Final rules will need to be proofread and edited for a polished presentation free of errors.
  • Cards – For POD a PDF of the cards fronts & backs are needed. If you don’t have the skill to make such a PDF, you will either have to learn it or hire it done.
  • Video – A video showing what it is with an example of play.
    • High quality video is downgraded if placed in the spot Kickstarter gives you. Some place the video below that, linked from YouTube. They put a graphic in the spot Kickstarter offers for a video.
  • Engagement – You will have to engage with backers during the entire run of the Kickstarter and push it on social media. If you don’t work it until the end of the run, it may not fund, or you will miss out on actually making money.
  • Delivery timeline. It must be realistic and have padding for unexpected delays. Make sure that you can deliver no later than that date.
  • Communicate with backers all the way through final fulfillment.
  • People are suspiscious of those who launch a Kickstarter and have never backed any.
    • You should back a few Kickstarters and see how they handle things, so you can see what you liked and didn’t about being on the backer side of things. This will be a good experience so you can avoid customer service pitfalls.
  • Don’t run it too close to the end of the year, that you can’t spend money towards fulfillment, this will reduce the amount of taxes. My model with the $1,000 level shows the effects of waiting until the following year to pay expenses.
  • Minimize changes from Kickstarter coments.
  • Minimize or avoid stretch goals, and only use stretch goals that add value. Such as tuck boxes for card games, or GM screens for TTRPGs.

Cost Checklist

At some point, you will have to spend money, and will need to have very close estimates on costs so that your Kickstarter goal garners enough money to fulfill without finances being an issue. I don’t plan to spend much money on this until I have a play tested game that has the kinks worked out. If it isn’t a fun game and consulting with friends and play testing doesn’t change that, then I know not to sink a lot of time and money into it.

  • If you can afford it, pay all the upfront costs before the Kickstarter so that it is ready to fulfill as soon as the funds are released.
    • Work that Kickstarter every day that it runs to get the word out.
    • Leading up to the Kickstarter let people know you are working on something to help build interest before launch.
      • The quicker a Kickstarter hits the funding level for its goal, the more likely it is to go above and beyond and lead to making decent money.
  • Make backers pay for shipping separately, so none of it comes out of the Kickstarter. That is a cost that can change unexpectedly and is one of the biggest reasons for failed and late Kickstarters. Second only to those that did not start any work until funding. Always do as much work as possible BEFORE launch.
  • $15 for box of 500 blank playing cards from Amazon.
  • $15-$20 for a domain name.
    • If you don’t know how to do your own website, you will need to factor in costs and add it to the Kickstarter.
    • If you do this all yourself, keep track of the hours to determine your final hourly rate.
  • Assume a bare bones $1,000 Kickstarter & pre-existing art and no other costs.
    • Taxes would be about 28.75%, based on being a self-employed effort, instead of the tax benefits of an LLC or similar.
      • NOTE: Research how much the taxes are for this model.
    • Kickstarter & Stripe fees would be 38.75%
    • Total taxes and fees would be $380.50, leaving $619.50 to cover expenses.
  • Low volume & High volume runs. Assume maximum deck size of 120 cards.
    • The only way to decrease cost per card is to shop around for other fulfillment options. Most likely, these will require more effort to handle shipping, etc. So you will need to keep that in mind. How much work do you want to do to complete fulfillment to all backers?
    • Low Volume is less than 5,000 cards at $0.085 each, or $10.20 for a 120 card deck. Plus $1.00 for a plastic deck box. This is $11.20 per deck.
      • 50 decks would cost $560.00. (However, this would be enough cards for high volume printing, is delivered to same address.)
      • The $619.50 left after taxes and fees is further reduced by the $560 for the decks, leaving a net profit of $59.50.
    • High Volume is 5,000 cards or more at $0.06 each, or $7.20 per 120 card deck. Plus $1.00 for a plastic deck box. This is $8.20 per deck.
      • 50 decks would cost $410.00
      • You can only take advantage of this cost if all the decks are shipped to the same location. Add shipping to this location, how much?
      • The $410.00 left after taxes and fees is further reduced by the $560 for the decks, leaving a net profit of $209.50.
      • If shipped to your location, and you do all the hours of work involved, and your hourly rate will soon be negative.
  • If you pay $1,000 for art, you will need to plan for more than $2,000 for the goal, or you will be in the red, due to taxes & fees.
    • The only way to avoid paying for art is to use public domain art, or do it yourself.
    • NOTE: How much for art for 50 cards, for example. Most of the rest would have the same image on them?
      • This requires contacting multiple artists, seeing samples of their work, and working out rights to use their are, or purchasing copyright from them.
      • Assume that they will not do the work until you have the money.
  • If you pay $1,000 for lawyers, you need to plan for more than $3,000 for the goal. Always remember taxes & fees.
    • Depending on where you live, this rate could be high, or way low.
    • You will want to shop around for the best rate.
    • Do research on what you want the lawyers to do for you and gather all the information in an organized fashion, so that they can just do the part of making the legal jargon valid.
  • If you pay $1,000 for editing and layout, then you need to plan for over $4,000 for the goal. Again, there are still taxes & fees.
    • Again, most work will not get done without you having the money.
  • There may be other things you discover as you go that will drastically affect your estimates of costs if you find them AFTER you launch the Kickstarter.
    • Contact others who have run Kickstarters similar to the one you have in mind to make sure you didn’t forget anything.
  • Keep track of all the hours spent at each step from the initial idea to the fulfillment of the Kickstarter and use that to determine your hourly rate of pay base on how much money is left.
    • As should be evident, it is very difficult to get rich or make a lot of money with Kickstarters if you are honest.
    • Enough people in the realm of game related Kickstarters have been burned, and there are those like +Erik Tenkar, of Tenkar’s Tavern, who will point out the flaws in your Kickstarter and steer people away from you.
      • It should be nearly impossible to run a dishonest game related Kickstarter and run off with the money.
  • Backerkit or other site that is used for fulfilling Kickstarters. What is the cost and other requirements for using it?

Input

Did I leave anything out? Do you have experience with game related, and specifically card game Kickstarters? I’m definitely interested in having gaps in my knowledge and experience pointed out.

If you have experience with fulfilling a card game Kickstarter with OBS, or a different vendor, I’d like to hear your take on them.

If you are an artist who has worked on art for card games, or would like to do so, please contact me. I will be contacting some artists to see who is in my price range over the next few weeks. If I can, I’d like to get everything done before

My Plans

For one of my card game ideas, I already have art for the back of the cards. I need to factor in what I paid for that art as part of my profit calculation. I can do simple art or just text for the game mechanics. If I do that, I could make that a version 1, and a second Kickstarter if it takes off for better art. I think a single Kickstarter for the best product and presentation possible is the way to go.

One of my ideas could be expanded to a board game, but I want to keep it simple. I suppose both could be done as board games, but there is less involved with a single deck card game.

I already have 500 blank playing cards that arrived yesterday, and I figured out that sharpie ink dries the fastest to avoid smudges. I built my prototype deck on one game, and am just waiting to play test it with the family. I need 46 to 50 images for cards depending on what we come up with in play testing.

So far, counting this blog article, I have between 5 and 6 hours invested, plus about $20 in materials, and I haven’t yet play tested the game. That puts my mythical $200 in profit down to less than $40/hour. Every additional hour between now and fulfillment further reduces the hourly equivalent, if the game plays as well as I hope, and there is a Kickstarter….. I make about $25 to $28 an hour in my day job, depending on the size of my annual bonus.  Unless I come out of a Kickstarter meeting or exceeding that range, I know I can’t quit my day job anytime soon.

Some of the above time and expenses can be halved, if I end up Kickstarting two card games. As with anything else, doing something the first time helps me see all the things I didn’t know to expect, so any subsequent Kickstarter will be the better for it.

Open Box 500 Blank Cards
Open Box 500 Blank Cards
Ink Test No. 1
Ink Test No. 1
Ink Test No. 2
Ink Test No. 2

Conclusion

There is a lot more planning and preparation for even the simplest of Kickstarters, than most seem to realize. Even if you net several thousand dollars after final fulfillment, how many hours are in that? What is your final hourly rate? Unless one has an idea that goes viral, you probably won’t make more than minimum wage when you divide your net profits by the hours put in. If more than one person is involved in the Kickstarter, it is further divided by each person’s share in the partnership, or whatever it is.

Lazy people looking to get rich quick are in for disappointment. A lot of work and organization is required. If you don’t have organizational skills, you will have a lot to overcome to be successful.

Treat backers like customers, just like any other business. You must be kind, courteous, and responsive. Be proactive an identify problems before they happen.

If you do have a successful small Kickstarter that is fulfilled via OBS (One Bookshelf), then you have the potential for a small automated recurring income over time.

You can also get at cost print runs to take with you to conventions, or see if your local FLGS is interested in carrying them, or let you put up a flyer.

If you have a successful first Kickstarter, you are more likely to have success with following efforts.

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CafePress Shop Now Open

As you probably know, the current blog header and image I now use for my online avatar were done by +Satine Phoenix. I launched the new image on January 19, 2017.

Satine and I discussed the final product, and she commented on how she really like the image for the black background and would really like it on a t-shirt. I said, “What size?” She said, “Small.” I told her I’d bring it to Gary Con IX. She forgot we had that conversation and was so excited when I gave it to her. Satine was kind enough to model for a picture with her new shirt. She even laid it out in front of the table where she and her partner, +Ruty Rutenberg, the DM on Maze Arcana did a seminar on live streaming. She proudly told everyone, “I did that!”

Satine - Set Up Livestreaming Seminar at Gary Con IX
Satine – SettingUp Livestreaming Seminar at Gary Con IX

Ruty told us after the seminar that she was so excited about how it turned out that she talked about it for a few weeks. I thought that was so cool, and she is glad to let me use these pictures to promote my online presence. I also want everyone to check out Maze Arcana (on Twitch every Sunday, on YouTube, and see their Patreon), GM Tips on Geek & Sundry, and her website. Also check out her book, Action Heroine’s Journey on Amazon. She’s working on a new book, and you can help support those efforts at her Patreon.

CafePress Shop Now Open

Now I’d like to announce my CafePress Shop, where you can get my first offering of the image for the black background. More variations and other designs to come in the months ahead. Profits from the shop will help offset costs for running my blog, and social media channels. If I make enough from the shop, I can buy more art, or support more people on Patreon.

This design and future designs will also be available for giveaways as my channels grow. The fun and excitement of Gary Con last weekend has re-energized me. I’m hoping for great things in the months ahead.

If you like what I do and want more of it, please drop me a line. Tell me what you like and what you’d like more of. I’m becoming known to many for reviews. I do reviews anyway, but touch on all kinds of my tabletop gaming and geeky/nerdy interests.

Satine made a channel intro for me last year at Gary Con VIII. Here’s  the blooper reel.

Here is the video announcement for my CafePress Shop:

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Frank Mentzer’s 0D&D Game At Gary Con IX

I managed to get a gold badge for this year’s Gary Con, which means that you get into two special event games.  This year, one of them was Frank’s game. I had interacted briefly with Frank at Gary Con last year, and at Gamehole Con IV last November.

This year, I made it to Frankenparty IV, a party that Frank and his wife Deb host in their home. They only ask to follow their wishes about parking and a small donation to offset the costs of food. I touched on this in my Gary Con wrap-up post.

Frank’s game was very informal and I found it enlightening to see how one style of original play was handled. We only needed three dice, d6, d10, and d20. He provided pregens, which speeded preparations/play. Being 0D&D d6 for all damage, and d20 for combat.

He had us use the d10 to resolve things that had a chance of failure. through mutual negotiation and explanation of what our characters did, Frank would have us call high or low before we rolled the d10. Frank said that that is what they did before they started developing rules for things. He also had us use THAC0, which he said started in Lake Geneva and he thinks is a quick way to know if you hit.

I really like that. That is something that many in the OSR are going back to, such as Swords & Wizardry Light, and others. I have a love for AD&D, but there are so many rules, that rules lawyers bog down play if a DM doesn’t have the skill to move things back to the game. I’m slightly guilty of that, but I try to ask clarifying questions, and shut up, since I believe each DM/GM has the right to run their game to their preferences.

With old school, you only need a roll where there is a chance of failure, such as combat, or leaping over a pit in full armor. This gives more focus on roleplaying and moving the adventure along.

Frank also talked about four levels of crosstalk at the table. I tried to take notes, but don’t have it exactly as he described it.

They are:

  1. Players
  2. Characters
  3. Meta(game)
  4. Meta(world)

Old school play is reliant on player skill, so what many call “metagaming,” is encouraged, at least by Frank.

The scenario was set in the world of Disney’s Maleficent. That description of the movie/cartoon set the tone and we all had a mental image. No minis, just a written marching order on a 3×5 card.

Frank did use 3 six-sided weather dice and used the average for weather. Very quick and easy. He also told us when we were doing something that might get us killed, and commented on our choice of tactics. He gave us a chance to adjust, but we could have easily gotten killed in a fight.

At one point, one of our magic users used sleep on an opponent and all the crows in a tree fell down. I really liked the “rain of murder”. A day or two later I mentioned to Frank how much I liked that. He said that I was the only one who laughed at his jokes. Some were pretty subtle, but that’s a style of humor I also like.

Frank also shared his original campaign maps, which will help inform Darlene when she does the maps for his upcoming Kickstarter. I’ll be bringing that to your attention when I get word of its launch.

Frank Mentzer - Original Campaign Maps on Judges Guild Maps
Frank Mentzer – Original Campaign Maps on Judges Guild Maps
Frank Mentzer - Original Campaign Maps on Newer Judges Guild Maps
Frank Mentzer – Original Campaign Maps on Newer Judges Guild Maps

After the game he signed my character sheet and name card. I played a dwarf, so I named him after the dwarf in the AD&D Roll20 campaign that hit three years and 148 sessions last week. I shared that on our Google Community page for the campaign. The guys like that.

Dwarf In Frank Mentzers Game
Dwarf In Frank Mentzers Game

 

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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!

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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.

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Review of Into The Mournwood A Module in The Ice Kingdoms Setting

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A few weeks ago, I reviewed The Ice Kingdoms campaign setting. Along with the setting, Yesterday, I reviewed the first of several planned modules, Lair of The White Wyvern.  Today I review Into the Mournwood by James M. Ward, $8.99 on RPGNow.

There were several modules possible for unlocking in the Kickstarter, but none of the stretch goals were reached. Into the Mournwood was part of the base Kickstarter funding.

The Mournwood is one of the areas mentioned in the campaign setting book, The Ice Kingdoms. As with the setting book and the White Wyvern module, it fits together and fleshes out the setting a bit more.

This 56 page adventure is for 4-6 characters of levels 3-7. There is a linked index, and three major sections: Introductions, Adventure, and Bestiary.

The Introduction is composed of background and history of Mournwood, Where does the GM start, and 6 pages of More Notes for the GM. In the history, we learn why the Mournwood is also called the Hag Wood. This ancient forest is “full of monsters, fey creatures, and ancient evil.” This forest is so evil that there is a d10 table for curses that afflict those who enter it, if they fail a saving throw.

In the GM section it is specifically mentioned that the GM can use the adventure hook or not, and come up with their own adventure to start things. I really likes that, so that someone new to old school style of play encounters the idea up front.

The adventure section is composed of 35 encounter areas indicated on the region map. I must have missed something, as not all 35 adventure locations are on the map. If there is mention of this, I didn’t catch it, and I tried to read the entire thing carefully. It almost feels like a page with a map is missing. The map is a color map with 5 mile hexes. It would be easy enough to do 6 mile hexes if that is your preference. [EDIT: C.S. Barnhart pointed out, “Page 18, treasures of the fallen explain why encounters 4 to 22 are not on the map and how to use them.” See his other comment and my reply below.]

The pen and ink art fits the tone and mood of the setting, and are well done. There is only the one color map and it is quite nice. The remaining maps are black & white and are simple utilitarian maps. That is, they don’t have any embellishments like cross hatching and the like. All of the maps could easily be used in Virtual Table Tops (VTTs), like Roll20.

There is boxed text indicating read aloud text. There is one that is the initial setup for the adventure that is two pages. The GM can give each player a copy of the player handout to read themselves. The read aloud text is in a plain black box. I was momentarily confused, as there is some boxed text that has a gray background, that is obvious one would not give that information to the players. I don’t see anything explaining the difference. Further adding to the confusion, is the player handout is boxed text with a grey background. I would prefer to see a quick explanation of the two kinds of boxes, and being consistent in which one has grey shading.

This is a tough adventure and players need to play it smart. There are also adventure locations where players find items to help them as they go.

Finally, the Bestiary has 23 monsters and plants, most are familiar for those who play AD&D/OSRIC. Most notably, some of the named monsters are used with permission from WotC.  There are a few new creatures or modifications of old standbys to fit the setting.

What I Liked:

  • This adventure does a good job of giving the players a feel for the setting.
  • This is definitely old school. – Not all encounters are balanced, encouraging players to think before they rush in.
    • Having played Metamorphosis Alpha with Jim at a con, I can definitely see his style even in a different genre.
  • In the GM section is points out that the GM doesn’t have to use the included adventure hook. The GM is encouraged to make this material their own.
  • The maps could easily be used online, such as in Roll20.
    • One map is the only color art in the book.
  • The pen and ink are is all very good. I feel it is all more consistent than in the campaign setting book.
  • The layout is clean and simple.
  • After my previous reviews and commenting about the need for more editing, I received an updated PDF. Serendipitously, about the time I was preparing to read the module. I am pleased that instead of one or more errors per page, there are perhaps 5 or 6 in total.

What I’d Like To See: (This is almost exactly the same as my review of Lair of the White Wyvern.)

  • There are a lot of text boxes for read aloud text.
    • In my case, I have to know a module very well to be able to read such text at the right time.
    • Some of it is a bit long.
    • I think an experienced GM could give this one thorough reading and a couple quick reviews to get it straight the best way for them to run this.
  • There are two kinds of text boxes, but it is left to the reader to notice the difference.
    • The player handout has a different background than the rest of the read aloud text.
    • This should be noted at the beginning, and have consistent format for read aloud or asides for the GM.
  • While the layout is clean and simple, there is very little white space between the columns in this two column layout. It is still readable, and seems OK on my monitor.

Conclusion:

If you like this setting and are a completionist, this module is for you.  There is enough material here to easily fill multiple game sessions.

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Ramblings of an Old Gamer