Wednesday, September 11, 2019

Events & Play Wednesday - Gary Con XII GMing Schedule

As a player, Gary Con Gaming Convention tends to be a place for me to jump into as many wargames as I can, since I get to RPG, and play boardgames and cardgames, for much of the rest of the year.  For GMing, I really like busting out the big game for Gary Con, so I turn to a couple of favorites in Divine Right (1979) and Civilization (1980), as well as the traditional Saturday evening 1E AD&D game (with some of the same crew since Gary Con II!).  Of course, start times on these submitted and approved events are not locked in just yet, but probability is high since they been run for many years in these slots, except for Civ which has an earlier start time than before.  Don't worry about Civ running through lunch as we'll all order table side service.  I'm looking forward to next March 26-29, 2020, as I do few other times of year!



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Monday, September 9, 2019

RPG Media Monday - One Hit Die Update

A few years ago, I posted about One Hit Die, a YouTube series which is a "a fantasy comedy genre mashup of 'Lord of the Rings' and 'The Office.'"  I recently received an email from the creator, Spencer Estabrooks to let me know they have a third season "launching 1 episode per week for the next seven weeks."  If you've never watched before, start with episode one.



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Thursday, September 5, 2019

Throwback Thursday - Zero-Dumb Game

There's been a rash of discussion lately (it happens periodically) on the D&D legacy and I thought I would give my own perspective.  I grew up in Northern IL and started wargaming in the early 1970s, adding D&D to the gaming mix when it was first published in 1974.  The wargamers I knew and who taught me in those early days were often the guys from the local military bases who also made trips to Lake Geneva for the early Gen Cons and other wargaming.  I didn't make it to a Gen Con until 1975.  The folks I played with back in those days were always aware of Dave Arneson's contributions to D&D, as well as the the whole MN contingent, especially Dave Megarry whose Dungeon! boardgame gave so many of us many hours of fun gameplay.  His game was a sort of shorthand for how to start designing dungeons for a homebrew and also helpful when trying to explain to non-gamers how D&D worked!

What I like to think of as The Fertile Crescent of RPGs

As near as I can tell, for me as an outsider (non-TSR, non-Industry-person) who gamed in the early days, it wasn't until the advent of the Internet when some reprobates started the pissing contests.  That Dave Arneson had moved on from TSR was known by me and my friends but none of the details really from either "side."  The recent articles on that site beginning with K are manufacturing more of the same false animosity that some early Internet trolls were fashioning out of ignorance and a need for attention.

The author of the Gygax legacy "hatchet piece" and the more recent TSR "rift" piece came to Lake Geneva and tried to interview a number of people prior to the first article and most wouldn't speak with her.  It's my understanding Gary's widow was unaware this author seemingly had an agenda.  When that writer contacted me (she contacted lots of locals who were formerly in TSR or who are in the current gaming scene), I told her to feel free to come by the game store (figuring she would anyway and I'd rather be aware she was there) but told her I wasn't interested in being recorded or interviewed, though I was happy to talk to her, since she said she was a gamer.  It was very clear from the start she was asking leading questions and looking to find quotes and sound bites to further a predetermined narrative.  She hung out around twenty minutes or so and our conversation led me to believe her gaming background was with console and video games rather than tabletop games, though she had a smattering of TTRPG knowledge.  I was not looking forward to the article given my experience talking to the author.  The second "rift" article just confirmed what we already knew from the first piece.

As far as I am concerned, the appreciation of the early games and their progenitors is not a zero sum game.  There's plenty of credit to go around and there are plenty of reasons to celebrate everyone.  Dave Megarry is a big part of Gary Con as I am sure Dave Arneson could or would be if he was still with us.  Heck, I love the idea of a Arnecon in MN in late September or early October (his b-day being Oct 1st).  Of course, in the meantime, running stuff by Dave Arneson and paying tribute to him during Gary Con isn't going to ruin anyone's day either.  It's all good.

A look back at early tabletop hobby gaming
 or gaming-adjacent topics of the past.
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Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Events & Play Wednesday - D&D @ Gary's House & ExtraLife4Kids

A small but dedicated band of gamers got together on Saturday, August 24th, 2019, to game for twelve hours and raise money for "Extra Life 4 Kids."


The place was 330 Center Street in Lake Geneva, WI, the former home of Gary Gygax, the place where he first published the original Dungeons & Dragons.  The games were 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons, four sessions, each DMed by a skilled storyteller for a handful of intrepid player-adventurers, some with gaming experience that dates back to when Gary still resided and ran games in this storied home.


One of the players involved was the youngest son of Gary, Alex Gygax, and another was a grandson of Gary's, Mike Gygax.  The event was streamed live as viewers could pledge to the cause and doing so allowed the benefactor to give support to either the players or the Dungeon Master with re-rolls, advantage, critical hits, healing potions, magic items, and even naming the characters.  The event raised over three thousand dollars in donations!


This is the first time a D&D game was live-streamed from this historic site.  Yolanda Frontany and her husband, the current owners of the home, were kind enough to allow this event to take place.  They've been very generous opening up this treasured location for gamers from time to time, particularly during the Gary Con Gaming Convention, an annual event started by Luke Gygax to commemorate the many achievements of the father of roleplaying games.  It's a celebration happening every March in Lake Geneva which highlights Old School gaming.


John Gilbert was a player and the Extra Life coordinator (with special thanks to Jason O'Brien) while Bill Allan was the producer, as well as being a DM and player.  Working with Bill on the technical side of the event were the director, David Karaffa, and Tony K adding technical support (as well as playing in the final game).  Alongside Bill, the DMs also included Larry Hamilton, Fenway Jones, and Travis Taube.  I was also honored to be asked to play in the event.


The event streamed on Twitch and has since been uploaded to YouTube and there is a playlist for the full event to watch here.



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Monday, September 2, 2019

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Sunday Funnies - Second Breakfast

Over on dailysquat.com, a recent study proclaims, "Second breakfast ‘the most important meal of the day’, claim hobbit scientists."  Read more here!



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Friday, August 30, 2019

The Friday Grab Bag - Pizza Skulls

Over on the food.com YouTube channel, they show a quick and easy way to make Pizza Skulls.  Enjoy!




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Thursday, August 29, 2019

Throwback Thursday - Abandoned Virginia Renaissance Faire

One of my favorite sites, AtlasObscura.com, recently posted about an "Abandoned Virginia Renaissance Faire" and posted some wonderful pictures too.  Read more here!

(Also, check this map for other abandoned USA places here!)


A look back at early tabletop hobby gaming
 or gaming-adjacent topics of the past.
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Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Events & Play Wednesday - Lords of Waterdeep

Brad, Tom, and I broke out the store copy of Lords of Waterdeep by WotC for a fast-passed game on Tuesday.  This is a game we return to time and time again with little difficulty jumping right in and keeping it moving.  There was very little intrigue this time around and it became a race from an early point in the game.  Three players don't tend to compete much for resource spaces and out Lords weren't too much at odds with one another.  Check it out on Board Game Geek here.



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Monday, August 26, 2019

RPG Media Monday - D&D Played for ExtraLife4Kids!

On Saturday, John Gilbert and a group of D&D players (including myself) gathered at the former Gygax house in Lake Geneva at 330 Center St to play some 5E D&D for the Extra Life 4 Kids charity and raised over $3K.  It was streamed on Twitch and I snagged a few behind the scenes photos.






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Saturday, August 24, 2019

Rick Loomis has Passed

Rick Loomis of Flying Buffalo, a long time stalwart game industry luminary, has passed.  Condolences to his friends and family.


Friday, August 23, 2019

The Friday Grab Bag - Reykholt & Spartacus

Had a good time earlier this month trying out a new game (new for me, anyway), Reykholt, and also playing and old favorite, Spartacus.


Uwe Rosenberg never fails to design challenging games and Reykholt is no exception.


Who thought growing vegetables in Iceland could be so much fun!


Our Spartacus game included all the expansions with a full seven players.


Lots of backstabbing had this game come down to the wire!

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Sunday, August 11, 2019

Sunday Funnies - NatGeo Wolf Pack Pics

Over on NatGeo, they've got some great wolf pack pics and, of course, I'm making fun of one of them!  See more here.


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Saturday, August 3, 2019

At Last (A Poem)

James Lowder is running a Cthulhu game at Gen Con and posted a picture of his table sign which had a decidedly Seussian font.  Thus inspired, I jotted down this little offering . . .


Sunday, July 28, 2019

Sunday Funnies - Facebook Finds

Over on Facebook, I came across a couple funnies worth Sharing, credit where due.



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Sunday, July 21, 2019

Sunday Funnies - Dragon's Lair Dirk Deaths

Over on the memphiselle1 YouTube channel, they have a video showing the many deaths of Dirk the Daring from the old Dragon's Lair arcade game.  Enjoy!



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Sunday, July 14, 2019

Grymwaldian Grinding

It has been a while since last updating curious onlookers with details of what has been transpiring in the 1E AD&D Grymwald campaign in Lake Geneva, WI.  At first, it was to avoid spoilers for the players involved but we also skipped a couple of weeks after they finished off the bones of a couple of locations they had not quite stripped clean.  As of last session, the group has moved on to a new area of the map, having leveled up (a couple of levels in some cases), but this just brings new dangers for them.  There are still a handful of vile and unscrupulous personalities out in the world of which they are aware, and who are aware of them.  I'm a big fan of making sure strong NPCs have their own agenda but also keeping in mind that those NPCs will be proactive about defending what that see as their own territory from PC threats.  A group of adventurers can cut a deep swath of destruction and not everyone will be happy about that outcome.


In any event, the group now is attempting to tackle the first of a series of locations they had heard existed when they originally formed as a party.  There is an arced line of tors on the Trackless Moors where, in ancient times, dwarfish builders had created safe havens approximately one day's travel from one another so that the moors could be more safely crossed from south the north, and vice versa.  While some have speculated there might not be great wealth within them, others disagree.  There might not have been good reason to horde wealth at these travel stops but they did need to be defended.  The moors are a dangerous place even today despite civilization flourishing on all sides.  In ancient times, it is suspected that the moors were the least dangerous path from the Hills of Dissent to the Great Mouth Bay and thus the route chosen for the building of the Dragon's Teeth.

Photos in which the DM appears taken by "Scott Michael"

When last we left off, the group was heading back to the third level of some crypts they were systematically clearing.  Once there, they encountered a great many ghouls but developed a protocol, dealing with each new wave, doing their best to keep the undead at bay and dispatch each in turn.  Sadly, when you do the same thing over and over, successfully but relying in part on chance, sooner or later the fates will intervene and after dealing with a great many undead via via their fighting formula the odds caught up with the group.  Thusly, they were not in full health when they discovered a secret door which they hoped would lead them to great treasure.  An unlucky attempt to remove a trap on the door's locking mechanism dropped the thief to a failed poison saving throw and forced the group to retreat once more to recover their strength and raise the thief.  A couple of other adventurers also needed to be carried or assisted back to town for healing and recuperation, so this group took a fair beating before stepping back to reassess the situation.

More of these have been added and / or painted since this photo

Their next assault was thwarted now by two goblin leaders who had joined forces against the party: the oil-tossing goblin veteran met on level two and the goblin shaman who had been driven from the complex further north.  Apparently, the shaman had come south and linked up with the veteran to form a deadly combination.  Along the route the group was taking to get back down to the third level of the crypts, the devious goblins had laid an oil trap, which was sprung to cause serious damage to the group, then the goblins made their escape blocking off pursuit with a wall of ice strategically placed to cover the stairway down.  No matter.  Pursuit of the goblins would have been quite risky with a fair portion of the party so injured so once again they limped back to town, frustrated but determined.

Alex keeps a journal of events for the party

After regrouping in Jalston to heal and resupply, they ventured back toward the crypt complex.  They skirted the eastern edge, sticking to the road outside the moors and traveling down to a place they had used to ferry across the River Serpentine at the town of Fall Bridges.  When they arrived, they discovered that some goblins had boldly crossed the river to destroy the boat they had used in the past to traverse the water.  This did not please the group but rather than be dissuaded, they commandeered an alternate vessel, made the crossing, and picked up the trail of the goblin raiders.  They tracked them over the moors and managed to catch up to the goblin warband before they could go to ground.  The fight that ensued was decidedly one-sided.  The enemy which had proved to be quite formidable in the confines of the tunnels of the crypts was caught out in the open and dispatched with great aplomb.  The fire-wielding goblin was cut down with arrows as was his new-found shaman ally.  The remaining goblins the two leaders had enlisted were even less of a threat and though a couple attempted to flee, they were wiped out to the last.


It's an interesting testament to the flexibility of the game system and the style of play first edition D&D engenders when used in combination with a sandbox setting.  The group had an enemy leader escape earlier in the campaign only to have that enemy bolster the strength of a second enemy who might well have been easily dispatched under luckier circumstances.  The combination of the two villains now working in tandem created several game sessions of more challenging encounters and, in fact, the villains were able to bring the fight to the adventurers.  These weren't monsters that were going to be chased away and never seen again nor content to sit idly by in their pre-written lairs and await some adventurers to come and slay them.  They adapted even as the players needed to adapt their own strategies to meet the evolving challenges faced when dealing with such villains.  What could have been some underwhelming vanilla goblin fights became, in retrospect, a dynamic story arc in the lives of the player characters that could only unfold through game play.  This is what I love about Old School D&D.


One more time the group ventured to the crypts with the intention of returning to the secret door and discovering what lay beyond.  They were sure, based on all they had seen and divined, that this would be the big pay off.  With little difficulty, they descended the three levels and dealt with a few ghouls before setting up outside the hidden portal, now revealed.  They had come a long way to reach this moment, had experienced many setbacks, and had overcome great diversity.  The lock was picked and the tomb beyond was as daunting as they had suspected.  It was a round chamber with an alcove to the left and a single sarcophagus in the center of the domed space.  There were symbols upon the lid that were similar to ones they had encountered on the first level, in a lesser tomb.  The symbols had proved necessary in open a previous sarcophagus interring the remains of a follower of the goddess Nekrem.  A particular phase of the moon was the only time it could be breached.  Despite knowing that particular phase of the moon was several days away, they decided to proceed immediately, attempting to get in and get out before any other problems could arise.  This would prove to be their undoing.

Entering the tomb had set off a number of wards and alarms, releasing a slab that then trapped several members of the party within the tomb, others caught outside desperately trying to move the slab and release their comrades.  Inside, things quickly went from bad to worse with an unrelenting blood-colored ochre or ooze threatening to engulf the chamber from the dome downward at an increasingly rapid rate of speed.  With two of the trapped adventurers atop the sarcophagus trying to decipher the symbols or discover a way to reverse the 'countdown,' Nydijan, the cleric of Darien, entered the alcove and found a panel which, once opened, revealed a hand-shaped depression on a half globe relief.  With little hesitation, Nydijan placed his hand on the globe and proceeded to manipulate it clockwise and counter-clockwise as it pressed inward from time to time when various maneuvers seemed to make progress in this multi-part lock.  The cleric worked swiftly and eventually managed to avert total disaster but not before the blood ochre had reached far enough down to infect him, the two atop the sarcophagus unharmed.  When the ochre retreated, and the stone slab barrier lifted, the full party was reunited, but the lid was still unopened.  Deciding now to await the proper moon phase, the adventurers moved up a level in the complex to a suitable resting place to camp for the night but by morning had an unsettling discovery.  Apparently, over the course of the night, the infection to Nydijan had spread further up his arm and was in danger of completely overwhelming him in within days.  So, too, his very soul seemed infected as well and he seemed to be possessed by a desire to switch from his own deity Darien to that of the evil Nekrem.  Unable to convince him to return to the temple of Darien to seek help, they managed to subdue him and carry him forcibly back with all haste, arriving just in time to have the infection excised.  There would be several weeks more of recovery but they had missed this phase and would need to wait for the next cycle to make another attempt on the sarcophagus anyway so they resigned themselves to remaining in Jalston and taking care of various other duties before returning to the crypts.


With the goblin threat now finally eliminated and knowledge of the crypt's primary tomb in hand (so to speak), the group returned to the crypts the following month only to discover a new and different obstacle.  Their repeated retreats to town for healing and supplies from the temple of Darien had also attracted the attention of the priests in charge at the temple of Toeffer, the main religious organization in the kingdom of Jals.  In the local hierarchy, the temple of Toeffer sometimes enlists the help of the smaller but more militaristic temple of Darien.  The temple of Darien knows its place in this hierarchy and stays on the good side of their Toeffrun allies.  However, the temple of Darien has its own irons in the fire and had been helping fund the PC adventuring party in order to gain more knowledge of the moors in hopes of one day exploiting whatever resources might be found there.  While they weren't keeping any secrets from their allies, they weren't sharing everything they were discovering nor had they invited the temple of Toeffer to join in this venture.  Well, it seems the temple of Toeffer decided to invite themselves to the party and when the adventurers returned this time to the hillock of the ruined tower above the crypts they found dozens of pilgrims and a handful of clerics performing a ritual on that site.  When questioned, the Toefferites welcomed the party to join in the ritual but also blocked the way for the party from venturing within the crypts, for their own safety, of course.  This presented a different type of dilemma for the group.


In the past, the politics of the kingdom had been something of which they were aware but never affected their plans or decisions.  Now, ignoring the Toefferites or forcing their way past might jeopardize the party's standing with the temple of Darien or even cause the two religions to be at odds with one another.  The temple of Darien had been increasingly supportive, providing supplies, healing, resurrections (at a price, admittedly, but discounted as well).  When pulling Nydijan back from the brink of evil, he had recommitted to the temple and both Tertius and Sonoma had followed up this recent act by pledging their arms to Darien as well.  The two fighters now were decked out in the regalia of the temple of Darien which afforded them certain privileges but also came with responsibilities.  If the first time they rode out, as temple representatives, they sparked off a religious conflict, it might not be seen as putting their best foot forward.  It should be mentioned that there was some debate within the party as to whether or not to ignore their fealty to the temple and simply try to explain things away later if necessary but cooler heads prevailed.  In the end, the party moved off a bit and the druid and thief explored the possibility of entering via the previously blocked off rat tunnels.  This they did and although the thief became grievously injured in the process, it did gain the group access to the tomb in time for the moon phase which allowed them, with their previously gained knowledge of the hand-lock, to open the sarcophagus and glean the treasures within.  They then slipped away, leaving the Toefferites undisturbed, unaware of the fact that the party had essentially made off with any treasure to which they might hope to lay claim.

Although the group has played once more since the above events, it is definitely a new leg of the campaign so I will leave recounting it to a future missive.  Much of the group is fourth or even fifth level in some cases.  In the meantime, I will be bolstering up the details of the places they are now exploring, hoping to make it as fun and challenging as it has all been in the first half of 2019.  Game on!

Sunday Funnies - Kirk Fu

Over on the Heavy Metal website, they made a gif-enhanced list of the various Captain Kirk fighting styles from original Star Trek.  Enjoy!


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Friday, July 12, 2019

Harvey Pekar (1939-2010)

If you self-publish but are unaware of Harvey Pekar, you might find his life, works, and legacy interesting.  I recall watching his interviews on Letterman back in the 80s and 90s and thinking he was such a fish out of water, railing against the system while still trying to make a buck from it to make ends meet.



Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Events & Play Wednesday - Con of the Lakes 2019

The second annual Con of the Lakes, a small fundraising gaming convention based in Twin Lakes, WI, and hosted at the American Legion Post #544 with room for 125 gamers, took place last Saturday, June 22nd, 2019.  This year it included wargaming, boardgaming, and RPGs.  The 2019 convention successfully raised funds for Women's and Childrens Horizons in Kenosha, WI.  It's a wonderful, one-day event run by family and friends and featuring some of the finest game designers and game masters like Nancy Hutchins and Tom Wham.








 




News of Conventions and Gamedays as well as pictures
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