Tag Archives: Stars Without Number

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.

 

Stars Without Number Revised Edition Mini Review

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

The Right Way To Run An RPG Kickstarter.

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

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

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

What’s In The Kickstarter?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Mini Review.

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

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

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

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

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

My Gary Con X Events Are Now On The Schedule

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

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

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

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

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

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