Thursday, July 31, 2014

Throwback Thursday - Gygaxian Camelot & the Once and Future Game

There is an interesting article penned by famed gamer-author Jon Peterson that has been making the rounds on the Internet in gaming circles regarding the early years of TSR and the role of the major players in the fate of that company called "The Ambush at Sheridan Springs."  I'v read through it a couple of times and find it seems to jibe with accounts I have heard from many in the know.  Looking back, it is admirable that the early figures, Gygax Sr. in particular, wanted to keep Dungeons & Dragons in the hands of gamers, business-wise as well as creatively, and I often wonder if bringing someone with definite business experience into the fold a bit earlier on in the process might have made much of a difference.  With the rate at which major corporations gobble up one another, and acquire many smaller companies so casually, in the last couple of decades, I wonder if the inevitability of a major corporation owning D&D at some point might not have been a foregone conclusion.  Hard to say, but this is a good read for those who like lore of TSR from the 1970s and 1980s.  Check it out here!

From the article, left to right, Gary Gygax, Brian Blume, and Kevin Blume.

Throwback Thursday on 
A look back at early tabletop hobby gaming
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Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Events & Play Wednesday - Upcoming Conventions, Gamedays. and Misc Gaming, August & Onward

Looking mostly at August, but more sparsely on through the Fall, there is a lot of gaming that can be had if one has a mind to leave the comfort of their home.  Let's get started to get in some gaming!

First up, despite it being toward the middle of the month, I hope everyone has heard about Gen Con Indy.  It takes place from August 14th through 17th.  Tons of Pathfinder and D&D 5E events will be in the offing and more than 50,000 people will probably be in attendance.  I won't be able to make it this year, myself, but I hope everyone has a fantastic time!

Each week, my regular RPG group continues the D&D 5E Starter Set playthrough.  So far we've had a lot of fun, which is always true with the right gamers, good system of bad.  But 5E in its Basic form is a simple, fast-paced game with plenty that an RPGer of any D&D brand rules will find familiar. As per usual, most Tuesdays finds me at Taco Bell for an hour or so quick game play during the lunchtime.  Also, Friday finds that same crowd and a couple more over at Culver's from 11 am onward into the afternoon.  If folks don't have pressing appointments, we might game until 3 pm or later.  Stop on by if you're in the area.  You'll find I blog about many of the games we play on those occasions.

The third weekend August, and one of the ways I will manage to not miss Gen Con Indy as much, two local gamedays take place locally for us in Lake Geneva, WI.  Saturday, July 19th, those missing the big show can get together in Burlington, WI.  Get more details and join them by signing up for their Facebook event here.  On Sunday, July 20th, of that same weekend, join the S.L.A.G. (Southern Lakes Area Gamers) members at their monthly Gathering of Gamers at the Pizza Ranch in Elkhorn, WI.  Doors open at 11 am with gaming beginning around 11:30 am.  This event often lasts until 8 pm.  You need to join the S.L.A.G. group on Facebook to see the event listing and you can do so here.  Don't forget to bring $12 for the buffet and unlimited beverages that is part of the deal with the Pizza Ranch event.

This month, in addition to Gen Con Indy, Shore Leave 36 is happening August 1-3 in Maryland and details are located here.  The Austin Board Game Bash also runs from August 1st through the 3rd, and is growing swiftly in its fourth year! On August 2nd, The Monstore in Montclair, CA, hosts a vintage board game day, which Jessë Winslöw tells me is "Not a convention, but (. . .) Anyone bringing in an OOP game to play will not only have a lot of fun but get 15% off the entire store."  August 4–10, Lancaster, PA finds the WBC, the World Boardgaming Championships, in full swing.  Dragon Flight XXXV takes place August 8-10 at the Bellevue Hilton near Seattle, WA.

From August 22nd through 24th, in Madison, WI, there is a good bit of gaming included at Geek*Kon, details found here. The Pittsburgh Role Playing Gamers Association, a Facebook group, are planing a gameday for August 23rd.  Fan Expo Canada is happening August 28-31 at the Metro Toronto Convention Centre.  On the cusp between August and September, Pax Prime takes place from Aug 29 through Sept 1st in Seattle, WA.  Also on the cusp, the 29th through September 1st, Atlanta hosts DragonCon, one of the major gaming conventions I hope to attend one day.

To repeat the coming attractions, and adding a few more, for months after August . . .

In September, the 39th EN World Chicago Gameday, three happen each year, will take place in Mount Prospect, IL, at the excellent Games Plus gamestore on September 13th, mostly RPGing but sometimes other gaming types.  September 12 through the 14th at the Masonic Lodge No. 43 in Lancaster, PA, check out Save Against Fear, a fundraising for which there are details here.  The Boston Festival of Indie Games takes place on Sept 13 from 10 am to 8 pm in Cambridge, MA.

Sibcon Gaming Convention & Expo takes place from September 19th to 21st in Butler, PA.  September 20th, at the Newport Centre, in Newport, Wales, UK, the Dragondaze (one-day) Games Convention raises money for Barnardos Young Carers.  September 19th through 21st, at the Buffalo Niagara Convention Center, hosts the Queen City Conquest.  The HMGS South is heralding Hurricon September 25-28 with more info here.

In September and of particular interest to me is the Fall Gaming Hoopla.  It has tons of boardgaming plus a fair amount of RPGs, card games, and some wargames, from Sept 26-28, at the Johnstown Community Center, in Janesville, WI, with more information on their Facebook event here.  Their kitchen and excellent menu is always a highlight for me and make it possible to get there early and stay until the wee hours!

In October, from the 3rd to the 5th, it's Xenocon in the Quad Cities with more info found here.  Also, check out Con on the Cob, on the 16th through the 19th in Hudson, Ohio, "a Four Day Celebration of Games, Art, Freaks, & Fun!".  October 11, 12, and 13th, including Columbus Day, which is that Monday, you can game at Trident Con in Odenton, MD, the details of which can be located here.  BobCon happens in Kansas City, MO, and more info is found here. October 24-26   Look for more info, hopefully forthcoming soon, for Dan's Con of the Vale 15 for October in Brookfield, WI.

Then in November, check out U-Con in Ann Arbor, MI, and GameHole Con in Madison, WI.  November 7-9 at the Killington Grand Resort, Canage on the Mountain present A Fist Full of Carnage.  TsunamiCon 2014, happening November 7th-9th, has hit their Kickstarter goal (and has a few days left to get on board here) and takes place at the Hotel at Old Town in Wichita, KS.  The HavenCon Games Day is being held at the Urbana Volunteer Fire Department Banquet Hall  in Frederick, MD, Saturday, November 15, from 10 am to 10 pm.

The Gaming Association of Southwestern Pennsylvania has monthly gamedays but their annual GASPCon meant to happen in November is still ironing out details.  Check out their site for gamedays information and to keep informed for GASPCon here.

Some of this information is gleaned from the excellent lists (which you can check for even more event information!) on (the Historical Miniatures Gaming Society), and  as well as many, many gamers on Facebook and Google Plus, to whom I am grateful for the help in this compilation.  Thanks so much and great gaming to you!

Events & Play Wednesday on 
News of Conventions and Gamedays as well as pictures
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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Tech Tuesday - Flux Capacitors & Fusion Technology

A couple of tech-related items crossed my path in the last week that I wanted to share.  The first is a nifty gift idea, for oneself or another.  It's a Flux Capacitor USB Car Charger mentioned on Nerd Approved here.

The second item is an actual technology story regarding fusion research highlighted on the Scientific American website here.  It seems some folks are rethinking ways to approach harnessing fusion energy and a fair bit of new money is being thrown at the research.

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Monday, July 28, 2014

Media News Monday - Evil Dead, Doctor Who, Mad Max, The Hobbit, and More

Lots of groovy stuff in the media news this week for gamers, largely due to Comic Con happening over the weekend.  To start, it was announced over the weekend that Bruce Campbell will star in a new television series based on the Evil Dead.  You can read more about that here.

Also, there is a Mad Max trailer that got featured at the big convention which looks very exciting and is also on the Warner Brothers Pictures YouTube channel.

Lest we not mention more about comics, since much of the news of movies and television is coming from that quarter, "California comics publishers IDW and BOOM! Studios have announced an inter-company crossover of two of their top licenses, Star Trek and Planet of the Apes."  Read more of that here.

And while we're on the subject of reading material, this week marks one of three each year where The Escapist encourages folks to Read an RPG Book in Public.  It's a good strategy to help mainstream RPGs as folks notice, ask questions, and become more informed as a result.

And lest a week go by without some form of Capaldi/Doctor Who update, there is an interesting article on The Guardian where  the new Who reveals his stance on romance between the Doctor and his current companion, Jenna Coleman's Clara.  Some have wondered if May-September would be more than just a timey-wimey thing.  Read more of that here.

Finally, there is also a new trailer for The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies!

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Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday Funnies - D&D with Pete Holmes & Game of Thrones Bloopers

Not long ago, except by Internet standards, so, in June, The Pete Holmes Show uploaded a funny D&D gameplay video to the show's YouTube channel.  Enjoy!

Also, the Game of Thrones YouTube channel has posted the Season Four bloopers!

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Gary Gygax Day July 27, 2014

Today is a great day to remember Gary Gygax and celebrate his life through gaming.  Roll some dice and revel in the joy he has helped bring to millions.  See more here!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Saturday Crowdfunding Roundup - The Geek Preacher & Love 2 Hate

The Geek Preacher, Derek W. White, has an GoFundMe project set up to help him fund his annual Gen Con trip.  See more here.

From Green Ronin Publishing comes a Kickstarter for their card game Love 2 Hate.  It looks like a delightful, face-paced game with lots of humor.  See more here.

Saturday Crowdfunding Roundup on 
Keeping an eye on those Kickstarter & IndieGoGo
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Friday, July 25, 2014

The Friday Grab Bag - My 5E D&D Starter Set Playthrough Keeps Going (and Going!)

Our playthrough coverage continues from here!.

Before we jump back into the adventure, I have some added information to share.  One of the things I wanted to try and work out before our next game are inserts for a customized GM screen.  To that end, I discovered a thread on EN World where user ren1999 was building one for himself to use with 5E Basic D&D.  While I hope to make mine with more group-specific and Starter Set specific info, I'm keeping an eye on that thread for ideas for content and how to prioritize the layout.  See more here.

Also, WotC has put the five pregen characters from the 5E Starter Set up online as a PDF here.  Folks that are running the game, especially online, have been clambering for these.  Even if you are not playing or running the 5E Starter Set, you might want to look them over to get some insight on the new rules.  For our group, the characters and their players are named (in the order of the PDF) -

  • Fighter, Noble (Human) - Excelon played by Floyd
  • Cleric, Soldier (Dwarf) - Nox played by Norman
  • Rogue, Criminal (Halfling) - Bulbo played by Keith
  • Wizard, Acolyte (High Elf) - Heronimus played by John
  • Fighter, Folk Hero (Human) - Samuel played by Kurt

But without any further ado . . .
This whole post, a continuation from last week, will be fraught with spoilers, so you have been warned. 
 My own players should avoid the text below as well!
Often I post reports like this from the perspective of the adventurers but let's look at the rest of this section of the 5E Starter Set adventure in part from the point of view of the hapless victims of our fearless band of marauders.  I'll try to include details that would seem most important to the villains without leaving too much out for those who want the usual treatment.  Maybe a GM's insight into how one might run the bad guys will prove useful to other GMs.  Some of the encounters were from the previous week, held in reserve from the blog because the group had yet to complete the section. 

When last we left our adventurers they were surrounding the Nothic.  The group was taking a few hits but were dealing some serious damage to the creature.  The Nothic, who is often prone to negotiate.  Perhaps because he was once a wizard (though now horribly, insanely aberrant), he misses talking to people.  Perhaps, all Nothics are just greedy.  This one opted to attack for various reasons.

(Someone off-blog had asked for a peek behind the decision to have the Nothic attack rather than negotiate and the following is a capsule of what I shared.)
In this case, the party (without cloaks or disguise) are clearly intruders, had blood on their weapons, one had just fallen down the crevasse and was severely wounded and had thoughts of taking over the complex for his own (Nothic gained that info), and while three were back helping the Noble out of the crevasse, the unarmored one (Wizard) was wandering over in easy striking distance (with surprise and Advantage) with only the little one (Halfling) supporting him. 
I rolled a die and determined the Nothic would use the upper hand to try to take one or two down, perhaps using that and the injuries of the Noble to extort payment from a position of strength.  Nothics are evil, after all.

And there they were, the Nothic on the east side of the northern bridge, with adventurers all around him.  Some Fancy Dan of a warrior was standing atop this arched footbridge.  Our Nothic knew, through mental insight, that the so-called Noble had declared his intentions to claim the complex for his own and, in all likelihood, slay all who might live within.  With this threat came many merciless minions.  Action was taken.  What was meant to be an attack by the Nothic to slay an unarmed intruder before threatening the rest of the interlopers had swiftly turned into the Nothic fighting for his life above his cozy home in the treasure-laden crevasse.  Oh, the injustice!

The Dwarf was the hardest to hit and, despite Nothic's claws flailing multiple times at the bearded invader, only once did the nails cut through the Dwarf's armor, and then not-at-all deeply.  The Halfling was trickiest, avoiding damage but slipping in from time to time to strike with his little blade.  Another armored Human stood on the west side of the footbridge, firing arrow after arrow, more than a few finding the Nothic as a target even though the cavern resident had positioned himself with both the stone pillar and the Usurper as some form of cover.  It simply wasn't fair!

The party whittled away at our misunderstood mage-turned-monster, who was merely defending his home, and all soon seemed lost.  No matter how often the Nothic struck, a myriad of blows from the marauders rained down on him from all around.  Before long, the Nothic was at death's door.  But the leader, upon the bridge, slipped.  An errant swing of his axe had him slightly reeling astride the wooden span.  With all his strength, the Nothic plunged both sets of claws deep into the torso of the usurper.  Into his mind he projected an ultimatum, "Let me live or we both fall to our deaths!"

The Nothic felt the enemy stab deeply with his blade and shove him from the bridge, dislodging his claws.  As he fell into the crevasse, he could see he would land upon his treasures, some cold, golden comfort in his final moment.  He cerebrally screamed into the mind of his slayer hoping it would echo in his soul forever.

When Floyd's attacked with his Noble Fighter resulted in a "1," I allowed the Nothic to have Advantage on his next round of combat.  When the Nothic subsequently rolled a "20," and both claws had struck home, I allowed the Nothic to have buried his claws so deep it required a Opposed Strength Check (Contest) to separate them.  When Floyd struck with his sword, he also rolled the check and despite the Nothic rolling first and rolling high, luck was with the Noble Fighter.  I rewarded the well-played moment by having the falling body reveal the location of the chest hidden in the crevasse.  The group found the only one of the secret supply room doors, in the northeast alcove.  Through that, they discovered the Armory and only glanced into the tomb without entering (leaving the Undead undisturbed for now), then went below to the Redbrand Common Room.

Meanwhile, a weekly dice game was taking place in a Redbrand Common Room not far away.  Oblivious to the action that had transpired in the cavern above, Sulidan, the Redbrand who had been with Glasstaff the longest, was fleecing his fellows with a set of loaded dice.  He had just managed to build the pot large enough for a final throw of the bones when the door burst open and a sizable warrior moved in and around the table.  The newcomer hacked at the Redbrand to Sully's right dealing him a vicious blow.  Right on the warrior's heels, a wizard, his profession fast becoming apparent, danced across the room shooting out flames from his fingers, engulfing the table of ruffians in fire.  This finished off the injured Redbrand.  Next through the door came a Dwarf who clouted the ruffian across from Sully, and the former dice-mate died in his chair.  A fourth combatant appeared at the doorway and plunked an arrow in the back of the ruffian to Sully' left and killed him where he sat.  It all happened so fast that it was all Sully could do to blurt out, "Don't kill me!  I know things!"

After dispatching three dice players, and gaining some knowledge from the fourth, they bound him and checked the laboratory.  After a bit of confusion, they killed a large rat that was trying to escape the room beneath the door to the east.  It had already tipped off Iarno, though, who fled the complex.  After gleaning what they could from the paperwork left behind, including the identity of Iarno and the existence of the Black Spider, they discovered the secret way up to the storeroom, and made their way back to the Cistern hoping they could catch up with Iarno.  The tied up Redbrand from their first battle had been killed, seemingly by Iarno, and they figured out they had missed something hidden in the Cistern that had been retrieved.
 Figuring they had lost Iarno, but ignoring the door to the Bugbear Barracks, the group approached the tomb from the front hallway, nearly falling into the pit trap.  They opted to then go back around through he secret way to the tomb.  They vanquished the Undead and quickly handled the two Redbrand guards, releasing the prisoners.  With the former captives in tow, they returned to the Cistern and led them up and out through the cellar and back to town.  They felt they had cleared the complex.
In the meantime, the Bugbears had discovered the death scene in the dice room, not noticing the tied up Redbrand behind the dicing table.  The Bugbears checked Iarno's quarters and discovered he had fled.  The Bugbears opted to leave via the secret tunnel but soon reunited with Iarno hidden in the woods, who rallied the Bugbears awaiting a chance to make an attack on the adventurers.  Seeing they were still strong, he used his invisibility potion to follow them into town.  Because they revealed their next plan on the streets, Iarno returned to the Bugbears and waited in sight of the Manor ruins to see when best to make an assault.
"I had a very good thing going on here," thought Iarno.  "If it hadn't been for that meddling Sildar, and his collection of fools, I might have established a kingdom here in time and eventually had power enough to make the spider pay."

The disgruntled employee of the Black Spider knew there was but one way forward.  Fleeing the area was out of the question.  His identity was now known to Sildar and soon to the Lord's Alliance.  Neverwinter was off limits to him.  No place would be safe.  He needed to force the issue here and now, remove the adventurers from the picture, deal with Sildar and the folk of Phandalin, and re-establish control over the town.  If he could get this done before Sildar sent word to Neverwinter, it might buy him even more time.

Knowing now that but a fraction of the adventuring party would be returning to the Manor ruins to bury the dead, Iarno caught back up with his Bugbear allies hidden in the woods.  They crept up to listen and discovered the adventurers were the only ones willing to go deeply into the complex.  Iarno waited until most of the Deadbrands were pulled out and the townsfolk-helpers were busy with the bodies already brought forth.  Those idiots were still marveling over the burning body of the Nothic when the three adventurers on hand descended one final time to retrieve the three bodies form the Common Room.

Iarno scrawled a message to the Black Spider and dispatched it with the Goblin who would be glad enough to free from the Bugbears.  The Goblin only knew the way to Cragmaw Castle but they would pass word along to the Black Spider.  IF the Goblin managed to make it there.  It couldn't be helped.  Iarno needed all three of the Bugbears to re-establish control here.  With the Goblin on his way, Iarno gathered the Bugbears and slipped into the secret passage from the woods.

Without much light in the tunnel, he sent one of his burly, stealthy henchmen ahead to watch for when the adventurers would pass across the northern footbridge.  When he returned with word, Iarno split the group, sending two Bugbears, including Eyepatch their leader, down the southern staircase while he and another Bugbear, Splitnose, flanked the adventurers from the northern staircase.  Just to be sure they were softened up a bit, Iarno urged Splitnose to allow the other Bugbears to engage in the attack first, then head down.  As they descended to the sound of fighting in the Common Room, that damned Dwarf Cleric stepped out into the hallway.  If that bastard shut the door and barred the way, this combat would not end well.  He didn't.  His Dwarfish pride kicked in and he attacked Splitnose even as he was still upon the lower steps.  Iarno did his best to stay hidden behind his burly buddy, just above him on the staircase.

By the sound of it, the Bugbears in the Common Room were holding their own.  Splitnose was getting the upper hand here on the staircase but just to be sure, Iarno shot a couple of Magic Missiles at the bearded miscreant.  The dwarf called out that he was in trouble and another blow from Splitnose laid him low.  Iarno patted Splitnose on the back and sent him down to the Common Room to help finish off the others.  Still, there was no sense risking personal injury while the Bugbears had things handled.  Iarno stooped over the expiring Dwarf and rummaged through his pouches, snagging a couple of gems, a scroll, and some baubles.  As he heard Eyepatch call out that the battle was lost, Iarno looked up to see Splitnose hadn't entered the room and was now barreling his way toward the stairs in flight.  Leaving whatever else might be on the Dwarf's body, Iarno ran for it.  He didn't have to outrun the adventurers, he just had to outrun Splitnose.

As it happened, they both made it out the secret tunnel.  With little left he could do, while not risking his own neck completely, Iarno led Splitnose further off into the woods then slew him.  He had been bleeding profusely and it was not tough to tap a couple of missiles into the base of his skull.  If word of this bad turn reached the Black Spider, Iarno's days would be numbered even shorter than they obviously already were.  If he could just ensure that the Black Spider's plans for Wave Echo Cave were not thwarted, he might still stay in the evil graces of that tyrant.  For now, Iarno wandered off further into the woods to scheme and ponder his own existence.

With the complex now actually cleared of enemies in earnest, the group rounded up the supplies and weapons and made a deal with Barthen to liquidate them.  They put on hold their intentions to take the place over and stayed at the Inn where a long rest could more safely be assured.  With Sildar, they intended to leave the next morning using their Goblin guide to locate Cragmaw Castle and rescue Gundren, should he still be alive.  Most of that two-day journey north was uneventful but on the second night, during third watch when the Wizard and Cleric were up, the Wizard perceived a large creature lurking nearby and coming closer.  As the brush parted, an Owlbear burst forth.  Thinking quickly, the Wizard cast an image of as large a dragon as he could between himself and the charging beast.  It worked!  The Owlbear doesn't fear much but it also isn't bright and a dragon is just a little too big for him to comfortably attack.  It turned tail and lumbered off in the woods northward.

This ends the two weeks of dealing with the second section of the 5E D&D Starter Set Adventure.  We will continue and are having fun.  While we still need to refresh our memories on some of the rules changes from time to time, the game is playing well enough in this form to keep us enjoying what we have played.

More to come!  The next post in the series is here.

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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Throwback Thursday - Don't Go to Jail AKA Monopoly Express (1991)

One game that has been played recently in local circles that was quickly analyzed and found too simple even for a fast game is Don't Go to Jail AKA Monopoly Express (1991).  It's a dice game with all too predictable and outcome, which seems a counter-intuitive statement but holds true.  Obviously, it is an attempt to spin off from the long-popular game Monopoly but aside from some window dressing really has nothing to do with that game.

The dice are set up in such a way that there is little reason not to go for a top score for each round and thus it becomes a game where everyone in, let's say, a 3-5 player, 10K point game gets three. four, or (rarely) five attempts to make it.  Because there is a rule that makes sure everyone gets an equal number of attempts, going for a less than optimal score is ill-advised.  If you see this game at a thrift store and you happen to be a collector of unusual dice, maybe grab it for fifty cents or a buck, but otherwise give this game a pass.

Essentially, the best score you can get in a round is 7,300

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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Events & Play Wednesday - Mid-June to Mid-July Gaming 2014

Some of the photos in the albums from this month were used in particular CMG Blog Triad posts over the last four weeks but I do like to collect them in one place as a record of the gaming I have managed to squeeze in.  You can see more than what I have highlighted below in a Facebook album here and also on Google Plus here!

Tom picked up a copy of Boss Monster

Wendy shared her Nexus-acquired Viking game

The playthrough of the 5E D&D Starter Set began

Accompanied by a poster map made for the campaign

Wayne joined me on a trip south to IL for a game of
History of the World, followed by Kingsburg

John taught us to play Homesteaders

Tom brought his Rich Uncle to the Burlington Gameday

And at the Gathering, I finally learned Belfort 

The Clark Clan and Company attended the Gathering

Folks came up from Illinois and from all over Wisconsin

Many games, new and old, were played

Lots of gamers showed up taking us to nearly double our normal numbers.

Yesterday, Tom brought a couple new games to Taco Bell.

Events & Play Wednesday on 
News of Conventions and Gamedays as well as pictures
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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Tech Tuesday - Jibo the Robot

Yesterday on the Grymvald corner of the CMG Blog Triad, I briefly discussed Robby the Robot and what might be the quintessential robot ever in either Science Fiction or the real world.  During my surfing on robots I discovered there was a real world robot in the works called Jibo.  Dr. Cynthia Breazeal of the Monsoon Company is billing Jibo as "The World's First Family Robot."  Over on the IndieGoGo site, the project to bring this robot to he public has garnered over $900K of their initial $100K funding goal and still has over three weeks to go.

Jibo is essentially a voice-activated Internet station, a teaching tool, a hands-free verbal assistant, and a camera operator with a near-360-degree-sphere of view from its stationary location.  I don't doubt there will be side-projects to mobilize this little wonder since the sourcecode is being opened up and Application development is being encouraged by the originators who hope a thriving community latches onto their enthusiasm.  I'm guessing early adopters will be quick to prompt all sorts of uses for this robot that have yet to be imagined.

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Monday, July 21, 2014

Media News Monday - Tolkien Biopics, Mockingjay Trailer, Mr. Holmes

It's being reported on The Rolling Stone and elsewhere that there are two competing Tolkien biopics in the works which sounds doubly good to me.  Read more here.

There is a newish Mockingjay trailer making the rounds which you can watch here or below.

Currently being filmed, there is a new Holmes movie on the horizon starring Sir Ian MacKellan as a the sleuth at 93-years-old.  He's well retired and living with his bees and housekeeper, Mrs. Munro, played by Laura Linney.  Titled Mr. Holmes (2015), one can read more here on

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Sunday, July 20, 2014

Sunday Funnies - The Rebuttal of Schrödinger's Cat by Sarah Donner & the Japanese Doctor Who

Sarah Donner came out with a humorous new song/video last month that I am just now catching.  It's on her YouTube channel and titled "The Rebuttal of Schrödinger's Cat by Sarah Donner."  Enjoy!

Meanwhile, from the East, comes a video of a Japanese Doctor Who that is somewhat inspired by the British version.  You'll see.

Sunday Funnies on 
Humor, often gaming-related,
to start the week with a chuckle.
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Saturday, July 19, 2014

Saturday Crowdfunding Roundup - T.I.T.A.N. 2100, ConQuest Journals, Mini Mods, Gothic Doctor, & CORE RPG

Sector 13 Studios has a T.I.T.A.N. 2100 sourcebook Kickstarter underway here.

Shelley Harper of Indianapolis, IN, is in the homestretch of her Kickstarter titled "Con*Quest Adventure Journal - A Journal for Comic Cons."  It's described as "a journal for everything you do at a con. It’s that simple. There are seven sections that cover the con experience."  See more here.

Lloyd Metcalf has a new Kickstarter for his "RPG Mini Mods - Role Playing Games Mini Modules" project.

Gothic Doctor - A Game of Monstrous Medicine from Meltdown Games looks like a fun little card game that is already well-funded but you can still get in on the Kickstarter here.

Last but certainly not least, Lester Smith of Popcorn Press has a Kickstarter for his "d6xd6 CORE Role-Playing Game" which is well-funded and will be the sixth successful crowdfunding attempt he has made.  You can always count on good things from him, so see more here!

Saturday Crowdfunding Roundup on 
Keeping an eye on those Kickstarter & IndieGoGo
projects plus other crowdfunding efforts.
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Friday, July 18, 2014

The Friday Grab Bag - My 5E D&D Starter Set Playthrough Keeps Going

Our playthrough coverage continues from here!

The players have been doing well in our playthrough of the 5E Starter Set adventure but the final encounters of sections have been eluding them.  The adventure is designed to be very campaign-like, so villains often plan for potential escape should things not go their way.  My players have yet to properly corner their finale foes and even a few higher-up underlings have managed to slip through their grasp.  This can mean a bit less experience and we'll see how that affects their leveling process.

Looks like we will be playing weekly, rather than every other week (with an occasional in between game), so hopefully this helps folks with their immersion.  This is a good roleplaying bunch and I don't worry about that part but remembering details between games can be tricky.  As mentioned in previous blog posts, we're using a Facebook group (private) to keep track of stuff so that helps, but only if they keep an eye on it and participate.  They do for the most part.

Note that I am using a Paizo Flip-Mat as a GM screen.  I wanted to keep it handy for possible forest encounters anyway.  I'm still figuring out the best way to create some inserts for a GM screen.  I've got a four-panel portrait-orientated version as well as a three-panel landscape-orientated version but it's really more a matter of what information and charts stuff should go on customer sheets.  A list of Passive Perception numbers should certainly be well-positioned.  I suppose some of the other player ability scores and such would be good but I don't want to take any more out of the players' hands if I can help it.  What would be your ideal GMing screen configuration or inclusions?  Anything that is specific to the Starter Set that might not make a regular screen down the road like a list of the quests/hooks?

This week I wore a neutral grey shirt to ensure the dice would roll fairly.  But speaking of quests and plot hooks, in a thread over on EN World, "Remathilis" toyed with the idea of making some Quest Cards to help the players and GM keep the plot hooks in order.  I took this concept, made some adjustments, and use them in the Facebook group.  I can't share them here, as they fall in that area that might be infringing but you'll get the idea from the thread and can fashion some to suit your own group if they appeal to you.
From here down, expect spoilers and do not read on if you intend to play in rather than run a Starter Set adventure of your own.  My own players should avoid the text below as well!
In this latest session, after clearing out the Goblin Hideout last time and spending some time in Phandalin, the party had a handful of ideas what to do next.  They had decided the Redbrand threat was most pressing but also figured it went hand-in-hand with searching for Sildar's ally Iarno as well as discovering the fate of the woodcarver's family.  All of these pointed toward the manor ruins, so after fighting and locking up four Redbrand Ruffians in the Townmaster's cells, alongside their previous captives, four Goblins, they opted for a short rest over breakfast at the tavern.  They had a few wounds from which to recover and an hour to eat and collect their thoughts made good sense.  What they didn't know was that the Townmaster still fears Glasstaff, the Redbrand leader, and his ruffians more than the PCs just yet.  The Townmaster staged an escape while the party was having breakfast, so I had Pip, the innkeeper's son run in with the news of the escape, giving them a chance to recall the secret tunnel should they need options on how to assault the Redbrand Hideout.  They still chose a direct path to the ruins and information from one of the party (the Halfling was a former Redbrand), they knew where the cellar stairs were in the ruins.  On their way, they popped in the Sleeping Giant, a known Redbrand watering hole, to see if any ruffians were there.

I might have had something more picturesque than a simple sheet of paper to represent the Sleeping Giant, but so it goes.  With a well-placed gold coin, the surly female dwarf spilled a bit more information than the players expected regarding the Redbrands though they had most of that information already.  They did get a better idea of the number of members, though it isn't the Redbrand Ruffians they needed to fear once in their hideout.

Descending into the cellar, after forcing open the door which had been moderately barricaded, one ruffian attacked from below.  I gave Advantage to anyone with high ground, so this posed little problem.  Several more came forth from the opposite door, the storeroom/barracks, but the group made short work of them all, taking one captive.  Still in fear of their leader, they would have fought to the death.  Even the one captured, was not going to give up any secrets.

However, when the Noble Fighter threw the bound captive in the far left corner, it caused the PC to perceive the secret door there.  After a quick scavenge of the bodies, and the storeroom, and taking just a look into the hallway toward the crypts, they opted to take the secret way deeper into the complex.  A more thorough search would have been beneficial but more on that later.

I made sure to repeatedly mention the lanterns hanging around but I guess the party felt they still wanted to have some light of their own, so the Soldier Cleric slapped a light spell on the helm of the Noble Fighter.  This may have been why he felt confident enough to move ahead of the group and, with only one end of a rope in hand, decided to chance crossing the crevasse on the southern bridge.

Being well-heavy-enough, the bridge collapsed and a failed strength check to hang onto the rope resulted in some damage to the Noble Fighter.  If the rope had been tied around him, I wouldn't have required the strength check.  It was around this time he began to hear voices in his head, mocking his dreams.  The players had been joking around a bit prior to play and as we got started regarding their backgrounds.  That was useful for the players as some knowledge of the Redbrands came from the Halfling.  It was also useful for me, as the Noble Fighter mentioned he wouldn't mind claiming the manor for his own and fixing it up.  The other players had a chuckle over his own home having been destroyed by a volcano.  With all this at the forefront of his mind, and him in the lead and now injured, as he climbed back out of the crevasse a voice in his head scoffed at his plans to secure the manor for his own.  As the Noble was being healed and not sharing this development, the voice in his head went on to chide him further for the loss of his birthright to lava.  It was truly one of those GMing opportunities that tied a lot of the early adventure session together.

You'll note in the above picture that the Wizard is far on the left and everyone else has surrounded the Nothic that was mocking the Noble Fighter.  This might be deceptive.  It was actually the Wizard, not content to stand around and watch the Noble get patched up, nor having any interest in his accusations that someone in the party was saying things that the rest of the party couldn't hear because it all took place in his head, the Wizard moved further into the cavern and was surprised by the Nothic around the northern stone pillar.  Given Advantage, the Nothic rolled horribly.  The first of his two claw attacks missed with both dice and the second managed to strike but only for six damage.

After the surprise round, the Nothic rolled only moderately for initiative allowing the Wizard to disengage and get away while the Dwarf Cleric moved up to fill the gap and the Halfling moved up in support.  The Nothic had more trouble with the Dwarf after which the Noble Fighter leapt the crevasse and dashed up toward the other bridge, leaping the diagonal to land upon it, trusting his luck that at least one of the bridges would be safe, and it was.  The Folk Hero Fighter followed up by also leaping and dashing up the far side to help surround the crazy, one-eyed monster.

I'll post a bit more later today regarding the outcome of this battle and how the rest of the complex exploration played out, so make sure to check back in or watch for updates!

The playthrough coverage continues here!

The Friday Grab Bag on 
Essentially, a clearinghouse for topics not covered
elsewhere or needing a particular focus.
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