5/31/13

Five for Friday 22: GURPS, the Church of God, and Group Showering

The Keep
Last weekend, I had the privilege of gaming with most of our Monday Night Gaming Group for a 9 hour face-to-face session. It was the first time that they have actually seen me and the most amazing event of the day is that they let me play, even after seeing me. Rob and Tim have covered the session in more detail here and here (you can check out the pics of Dwayne's keep as well).
On our way to meet the baron.
Here are five awesome things about last Saturday's gaming session (in no particular order):
  • Dwayne's Keep: There are lots of great pics on his blog, Gamer's Room
  • Playing a GURPS spellcaster: Until Saturday, I have only played one character in GURPS, a very simple dwarf with an axe. On Saturday, I played Belafore, a Viking priest. It gave me a chance to experience another part of GURPS, namely, the magic system. One more step in my GURPS newbie journey.
  • The Church of God Prayer Meeting: We rented a small conference room at a Days' Inn and there was a prayer/worship session going in the next room. I could imagine their fervent prayers on our behalf as we were loudly fighting skeletons while trying to gain entrance to the Blood Oracle. I was expecting them to rush in and perform a mass exorcism on the spot. I have to admit that we were shouting a lot during combat and a few f-bombs were dropped.
  • Spending time with Tim and the Happy Whisk: Tim and his lovely bride opened their home to me for the night. We had a great visit and I came away with a box of lovely parting gifts--gaming stuff and lots of goodies from Whisk's couponing expeditions. Very generous. More than makes up for the leaky air mattress and the weird moment when I went into the bathroom to take a shower, only to be followed by Tim, his wife, and both of their dogs. I did wait until they left before undressing and showering, but I chalked it up to the west side of Pennsylvania having different hygiene and hospitality customs than those of us on the east side of the state. Maybe they were going to scrub me down with the dogs?
  • The Group: For me, the joy of gaming is really not about the gaming stuff but about the group of people at the table. I am still a casual gamer at heart. It is the group that keeps me coming back.
On our way to the Blood Oracle.
All in all, it was a great time. Thanks, guys!
All Spread Out: We are a fun group, but tactics often elude us.

5/22/13

Haiku 10: Orc

orcs rain destruction
cockroaches from world's dark past...
evil comes to all

5/21/13

In-House Gaming

For the past few years, my gaming has been restricted to our Monday Night Gaming Group (via Skype). Our in-house gaming group ground to halt when the offspring half of the group up and went to college, leaving the rest of us to foot the bill. My wife and I have talked about starting up our in-house gaming group again, even if it ends up being just the two of us.

We are looking at two very different games, Trail of Cthulu and Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies. Trail of Cthulu is a Pelgrane Press game, written by Kenneth Hite, who also written one of my favorite GURPS books, GURPS Horror. Trail of Cthulu uses Robin Law's GUMSHOE system, which is designed specifically as a system to support investigative RPGs. I have read nothing but good things about GUMSHOE and about Trail of Cthulu.

I have had a crush on Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies for a while, but I keep delaying its purchase because I always find some more urgent and immediate gaming need. I really like the concept of the PDQ system and the setting for Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies looks neato cool. Pirate air ships, fencing, muskets, and islands in the sky...what could be more groovy than that?

I told my wife that either game would be a great Father's Day gift.

5/20/13

5/17/13

Five for Friday 21: Mash-ups

"You got chocolate in my peanut butter!" "You got peanut butter in my chocolate!" Who doesn't like peanut butter and chocolate together (actually, I don't, but that is a Sheldon Cooper kind of sensory thing for me, a matter for professional help, and beside the point).

I like RPG mash-ups but I am not particularly creative with them myself, so I thought I would take a crack at coming up with five mash-ups. To be honest, I am more interested in what other people come up with, but here are some things that have occurred to me:

Constantinople (c. 1150) + Oceans 11 + GURPS: I have actually put some work into this one as my embryonic Onyx campaign. A medieval urban fantasy campaign, featuring a band of specialists engaged in heists against the rich and powerful. It is currently on hold because our Monday Night Gaming Group is busy with other stuff.

Dresden RPG (Fate) + Amish + Jack Reacher: Our in-house gaming group created the characters for this, but the three kids in the group all left for college before we could actually play. My wife created a young Amish woman whose spellcasting abilities put her at odds with her community and her own faith. I was bummed we never played. I was a delivery truck driver with Jack Reacher combat skills (much like real life).

Swords & Wizardry + Realms of Crawling Chaos + Post-Apocalyptic Detroit: It doesn't take much imagination to cast Detroit in this role.

PDQ + Steampunk + Alice in Wonderland: This would take a bit of work and I probably would hack a few existing PDQ-based games but this seems like a trippy rules-lite combo.

Crypts & Things + Weird Adventures + Silk Road (Central Asia): I have always like the part in Raiders of the Lost Ark where Indiana Jones travels to Nepal, plus I am a fan of Central Asia, medieval and modern. I also really like Crypts & Things and Weird Adventures. It would take a bit of work but C&T is really simple and WA is awesomely groovy.

Have you come up with interesting mash-ups and hybrids? Have you seen something created by someone else that strikes you as particularly creative, bizarre and fun to play?

5/16/13

Haiku 9: Kobold

A repost from my old blog:
dangerfield geckos
little lizards of vile hate;
respect the K-bold

5/15/13

Megadungeon Hall of Fame: "The Dungeon as a Mythic Underworld"


The Dungeon as a Mythic Underworld is a classic megadungeon blog post. You can find plenty of comments and references to it, which speaks to its influential place among many gamers. Alas, the post itself is no longer available, with the demise of the blog Philotomy's Musings. However, the content is still available online with only the slightest bit of work. Pages 22-24 of Philotomy's Dungeons & Dragons Musings (free PDF) preserves the content of the original blog post, The Dungeon as a Mythic Underworld. Be sure to follow the link and check it out.

5/14/13

PDQ--The GURPS/Fate Rules-Lite Lovechild

I have been interested in picking up a PDQ-based game for a while. Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies is tops on my PDQ wish list, but on a whim, I ended up purchasing Dead Inside (PDF) from RPGNow. I won a $10 gift certificate from Erik Tenkar et. al. as part of the Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day celebration. I was a random winner, which means I posted that day (thanks, Erik!).

It may seem blasphemous to purchase a PDQ game with "old school money" but PDQ is like the Swords & Wizardry of new school games, kind of a rules-lite lovechild of GURPS and Fate. You can get the generic PDQ Core rules for free and also get PDQ Sharp for free as well. PDQ Sharp is a variant that serves as the basis for Swashbucklers of the 7 Skies (which is still on my wish list, I just want to get it in hardcopy).

5/13/13

Monday Moodsetter 18

"Our Grasp of Heaven" by Noah Bradley
RPG Rorschach: What is the first gaming thought that pops into your head?

5/12/13

Five for Friday (Sunday Edition) 20: My Hardcopy RPG Wish List

I haven't much time to blog lately and I have drawn blanks on blog topics, not that a lack of content prevents me from blogging. I thought I would update my Hardcopy RPG Wish List, as I scored two items off my last list (Rappan Athuk and GURPS Martial Arts). I also picked up a very nice 5 string bass guitar off of Craigslist.

Here is my update wish list:

5/8/13

The Group

I am frequently struck by the similarities between playing music and playing games. You need the right stuff--so there is a lot shopping and buying of cool things. And there is always one more thing that you just have to have (unfortunately, music involves more big ticket items...although my recent Frog God Games purchase felt like a music equipment purchase). Like gaming, genre certainly matters in music--you want to play stuff you like and not play stuff you can't stand.

What often gets left out of the conversation is the power of a good group. While the group isn't the only thing that matters, I am finding that the chemistry of the group is more important to me than anything else. I play music and role-playing games for enjoyment. When the enjoyment ends, so does my interest. The picture above captures the chemistry of my music group during our very first gig. And the chemistry gets better as we go along. Every rehearsal includes at least one total meltdown due to laughs. The more fun we have, the better we sound.

Our Monday Night Gaming Group is much the same way. As time goes on, the system and settings matter less to me than the laughing, the shared adventure stories, and the support we occasionally give each other when one of us faces a real life challenge. We are a gaming group, not a support group, but the friendship and the chemistry matter a great deal to me. That is the groovy thing about tabletop RPGs to me--the people matter and the group is the thing.

5/7/13

H.G. Wells, Dungeons & Dragons, and Call of Duty (The New York Times Book Review)

"Basic Training," an interesting article in The New York Times Sunday Book Review by game designer, Mark Wallace, tracing the history of modern role-playing games back to H.G. Wells book, Little Wars. It may not be new information for some, but it is nice little article.

5/6/13

Monday Moodsetter 17

Wattens, Austria
RPG Rorschach: What is the first gaming thought that pops into your head?

5/5/13

GURPS Newbie Post: Questions on Small Unit Tactics for GURPS Fantasy

Here are some small unit tactical questions for the GURPS-type people:

Is there anything out there online or in print that gives information about small unit tactics for GURPS in a medieval fantasy setting? I was thinking about this after our last GURPS Majestic Wilderlands session when our group, like many tabletop RPG groups, rode around on the field of battle very much independent of one another. While we prevailed, it put me in mind of my early gaming days (back in the late 1970s with D&D) where the players had set formations and marching orders written on paper that covered various physical spaces and scenarios. The group had also worked out some basic tactical plans so that at the start of melee combat we knew who would be casting spells, who would be engaged in front line melee, and who would be using ranged weapons. The assumption was that they had trained a bit together and had developed some basic formations, marching orders, and plans.

Three of the four people in my first gaming group were wargamers prior to our discovery of D&D and its discovery of us, so the tactical aspect was interesting to us. We did this because it made sense, not because D&D rewarded this type of planning. Tactics matter in the early editions of D&D, but not nearly as much as in GURPS.

Tactics matter a great deal in GURPS. It is why I love playing it, but, like most RPG groups, our current group sucks at group tactics because no one plans ahead and no one is the combat commander of our group. We started out with 75 point characters and are now just a bit over 100, so we really need to fight as a unit to take advantage of our strengths and, more importantly, cover our weaknesses. I have some of the GURPS Dungeon Fantasy stuff and that is helpful, but I am just wondering if there is something else out there (and here I'll admit that I could have easily missed something in a GURPS publication that I already own).

Do any of you GURPS people have any advice for a group of mostly GURPS newbies on how to approach small group tactics, based on your own experience? That is my follow-up question. And here I am mainly looking at GURPS fantasy with a TL of around 3. However, even advice based on other GURPS genres and settings would be helpful.

I have a few thoughts on my own on this but I wanted to hear from more experienced people before tossing things out there. I don't think my thinking is coherent enough yet on this topic to put together a blog post (not that a lack of coherence has hindered me in the past...incoherence is my M.O.).

5/3/13

Five for Friday 19: Why Dwarves Are Better

I have been swamped with work, so I have asked Delvin to take a turn writing a Five for Friday post for me. Some of you may remember Delvin from the GURPS Majestic Wilderlands session notes on my blog. By the way, Delvin prefers to use "dwarves" as the plural for dwarf (following Tolkien).

I am not much for this whole blogging thing, but, then I should keep Ken happy as I am his character and I am hosed if he decides to create a different character. Anyway, I am not much for writing so I am going to use pictures to help me tell my story today. Most of you humans would rather see pictures than have to read and think anyway. Since I have been given free reign for this post, I am going to give you Five Irrefutable Reasons Why Dwarves Are Better:
  
5. We Can Multi-Task: Do dishes, sing, juggle, and play catch all at once? No problem. 

4. Our Weapons Can Multi-Task: I quick draw with my +2 bass guitar.

3. Farts and Burps Always Acceptable (even especially at weddings and funerals): I know. How cool is that? 

2. We Are Optimists: We always see the positive in everything. 

1. We Are Not Elves: No explanation needed.

5/2/13

Excellent Reading Recommendations From the Commentors

I've had some very good book recommendations in the comment section of this blog. Thanks, you guys, for giving me hours of literary entertainment.

On the fantasy front, I am about a quarter of the way through the Chronicles of Amber (Roger Zelanzy), recommended by Tim (Gothridge Manor). There are ten books in the series, but they are short and they read fast. It feels a bit like reading Moorcock, which is a definite plus in my book, but Zelanzy has a vibe all his own. I also have Malazan Book of the Fallen (Steven Erikson) and the Garrett P.I. books (Glen Cook) on my To Read list. Both series were recommended by JD (The Disoriented Ranger). All of these recommendations were in response to my post on my favorite fantasy series.

On the World War 2 front, Mark (No School Grognard) recommended Japanese Destroyer Captain, which turned out to be a great read. Thanks, Mark! Butch recommended A Frozen Hell: The Russo-Finnish Winter War of 1939-1940, which is next up on my WW2 reading. It looks like an top-notch book. Butch also mentioned Flags of Our Fathers, which I am embarrassed to admit that I have not read (I have no idea why I haven't read it yet, except for the sheer volume of WW2 books out there). I will certainly correct that omission in the near future. These recommendations resulted from my post on my favorite World War 2 books.

The best part about writing a blog is the feedback in the comment section. I don't have a lot of followers, but I do get great comments. Thanks, guys, for the recommendations!

5/1/13

I See Dead People...GURPS Session in the Majestic Wilderlands

Monday night found me connected to the Monday Night Game boys after me missing the previous week due to a work-related meeting (which led to my character, Delvin, scoping out stone for quarrying with our master mason). We are taking a break from the Montporte Dungeon and are back to the GURPS Majestic Wilderlands, GMed by Rob (Bat in the Attic). In the previous session, the group began to explore the Plain of Cairns to the east of where we are building our inn (the T-intersection in the middle of the map, just south of Bellsdale). Without Delvin’s trusty dwarven axe, the rest of the guys got the snot beat out of them. So with Delvin joining them, the party headed back out to the Plain of Cairns. Here is how it went:

The boys were pretty well beat up after going out to explore the Plain of Cairns without me. That’s what they get for insisting I go with the master mason to protect him as he scouted for possible quarry sites. Sure, send the dwarf to look for building stone. Where is the cliche in that?

In turns out that the Plain of Cairns is filled with all sorts of nastiness. Barrows sprouting up all over the place like pretty flowers growing out an elf's wazoo. We debated whether we should go make the rounds with the local rulers to the towns to the north, something we’ll need to do sooner or later. Lords, barons, counts, and what-have-you. All sorts of ranks and protocols…we dwarves just have a king and a queen and the rest of us are their drinking buddies. No need for courtesies and protocols and fancy speech, just beer me.

So, in the end we decided to head back out to the Plain of Cairns. Our goal was to check out the big henge in the middle, but we thought we’d check out the barrows along the way. The first barrow was empty but we did find some really old obsidian daggers in a pile of debris. Six daggers, in fact.

Right after that, we encountered five zombies shambling around on the plain. There were four of us. Given that our group is a mixed bag when it comes to fighting, I was none-too-giddy about being outnumbered. Durgo and the new guy, Brom, fought two of the zombies to no great effect on either side. The zombies were knocked down and the boys were trying to stomp on them with their horses. I went after the two most distant zombies and cleaved them handily, pressing home the attack as fast as I could and not worrying about defending myself.

In the meantime, Aeryon was hard-pressed to defend himself against a particularly aggressive zombie. I wheeled my pony around, headed over his way, and then split the zombie from head to crotch. While I was saving Aeryon, Durgo and Brom finally took out their zombies. Fun skirmish! Better than sitting around bowing and mindlessly saying “Yes, my lord” and “No, my lord.” Blah blah blah.

Getting my dwarven rage on, I was ready for more. Everyone else was a bit shaken and were thinking about heading back to the inn construction site. We did decide to head out to that big henge but as we approached, we could see a wicked malevolent purple glow from within the henge. The rest of the guys stopped and even I could see the foolishness of going on without knowing what we were up against. Lest you think me a wuss, I am sure that your average elf would have wet himself and fainted at the thought of it all.

We headed back to the inn, exploring another barrow along the way. This one was occupied with two human skeletons laid out on stone slabs decorated in an ancient style that had been influenced by the elves. Now, riddle me this? If you humans don’t want zombies, skeletons and all sorts of other creepy guys milling about and causing a ruckus, you should probably do a more thorough job of disposing of your dead. Ever think of adopting cremation as a regular habit?

As we arrived back to the inn construction site, we decided that we needed to head into the nearest town to find out more about the Plain of Cairns. The history of this place might provide a clue to the demonic power at the henge and all those undead ambling about.