I’m wrapping up work on two programmed solitaire adventures, a 20th anniversary revision of my Trapped in the Museum free adventure and a much more substantial science fiction scenario, The Asturia Incident, each using the OpenD6 system. I enjoyed working on them. They offered a break from more traditional roleplaying game writing and allowed me to have fun exploring elements within each genre. Both serve as tutorial adventures walking players through the skill-roll process in numerous situations, though this proved a bit more difficult to adjudicate thoroughly in the longer scenario. And while I’m thinking about developing a substantial pulp-themed solo adventure (a sequel of sorts to Trapped in the Museum), I feel I need some time to cleanse my palate from the rigors of programmed solo scenario writing. As entertaining as I hope the final product might seem, writing a programmed solo adventure takes a great deal of creative effort and has limited appeal in the roleplaying gamer market.
Tuesday, June 11, 2019
Tuesday, May 28, 2019
Lately I’ve had an urge to explore M.A.R. Barker’s Tékumel setting through solitaire roleplaying. (You can read my earlier missive on this subject, “Prepping A Solitaire Foray into Tékumel.”) So one night while my wife was off watching Game of Thrones with friends and my son sat glued to the television screen watching American Idol (neither of which engages me in the least) I spread my solo gaming materials across my standing desk and indulged in a brief foray into the Empire of the Petal Throne. My heroes consisted of Ibásh, a young, idealistic priest of Keténgku; Bara, a protective aridani warrior late of the Legion of the Mighty Prince; and Thékuto, a well-traveled trade liaison for the Victorious Globe clan, to which they all belong. Their masters have quietly charged them with researching and retrieving an ancient automaton. As the first step in their journey they stopped along the sákbe road at the Tower of Deathly Hospitality (detailed in the earlier blog entry on this subject). Seeking shelter in the midst of a torrential monsoon, they find a caravan camped on the platform as far as possible from the dilapidated guard tower, with a lone fellow staring into the open door into the structure calling for his wife but, alas, not brave enough to enter and search for her himself. After learning of the tower’s haunted reputation from the encamped caravan, the group approaches Hóru hiArusá, a craftsman from the Silver Collar clan heading home with his new wife. Dzái sought shelter in the tower against his wishes; she has yet to emerge, call for help, or otherwise make her presence known. Although Ibásh wants to charge in, Thékuto, ever the voice of savvy reason, asks what Hóru’s willing to do if they group finds and returns his wife. The artisan offers them a finely wrought copper cup he himself crafted. Encouraged by this incentive the heroes enter the tower.
Tuesday, May 14, 2019
Seems like everyone’s releasing a new edition of our favorite games these days through regular hobby distribution channels, online, or Kickstarter campaigns. Some are genuinely updated and overhauled, others are classic games in spiffy looking refurbished packages with enhanced contents. Each time I see one of these I mentally undergo a quick evaluation – did I enjoy an earlier edition, do I like the setting and mechanics, will I play it, can I afford it? – and almost as quickly dismiss it. (Exceptions exist: see below.) I expect most gamers employ a similar cognitive subroutine whenever the prospect of any game purchase arises; but new editions often add an extra factor, that we already have a version of the game, one we most likely enjoy. Can it rekindle the love we once felt for this game? Can this new edition encourage and enhance additional gameplay? Is it simply a money pit to cash in on our nostalgia?
Tuesday, April 30, 2019
|A cannon overlooking Lenn Park|
on the site of a Civil War engagement.
We recently took my son, the now nine year-old Little Guy, to his first Civil War battlefield. I’m always worried about doing these things too soon, but he demonstrated an interest in the history: getting enthralled by the National Park Service movie on the battle, examining and reading about the artifacts, walking along the trails to the barely visible remains of entrenchments, and tolerating his father and uncle droning on about aspects of the exhibits and terrain. His growing understanding of history merging with my enthusiasm for games gives me an idea for summertime activities that might benefit him next year when he studies Virginia history: combining day trips to area battlefields with reading books from Daddy’s library and playing games portraying the events we study. Our trial visit to the Chancellorsville battlefield and a few rounds of Richard Borg’s Battle Cry helped convince me this just might work.
Tuesday, April 16, 2019
Reading Man of Gold and diving back into Tékumel source material inspired me to explore Professor Barker’s rich, very alien setting through solitaire play (my distant past attempts at running it with friends having met with little success or satisfaction). I took some time to assemble my resources and work out some story basics...and then I put it to the test on an adventure seed I wrote as a challenge I issued in on of my recent blog posts, “Demonstrating Potential: Adventure Seeds & Outlines.”
Tuesday, April 2, 2019
Google Plus is gone. Like a friend who parts ways following a different path of life than our own, it has wandered off into the ephemeral oblivion that consumes much of the content on the ever-changing interwebzes. I feel grateful to have involved myself with it since 2011, when a gaming friend sent me an invitation to the beta version. The experience expanded my horizons on various fronts, mostly game related. Google Plus exposed me to new people, material, and ideas that sometimes challenged my comfort zone but always expanded my experiences as a gamer.
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
I’m re-reading M.A.R. Barker’s novel Man of Gold and it’s drawing me back into the rich, complex, distinctly non-western roleplaying game world of Tekumel. I’ve discussed this setting before (“Tekumel: The Lands of Joyful Addiction”) and how, despite the vast depth of the game world, I can never quite dive into it at the gaming table, at least for very long. After some reflection I’ve identified several reasons for this, not necessarily limited to Tekumel but particularly to games with esoteric settings. They all feed my growing list of elements I feel necessary in a good roleplaying game core rules set beyond basic, intuitive, yet easily adaptable mechanics (no doubt fodder for future Hobby Games Recce posts). But I want to concentrate on one aspect often missing from the various incarnations of Tekumel-based roleplaying games that could help make them and other games more easily accessible: adventure seeds and outlines.
Tuesday, February 26, 2019
I’m slowly nearing completion on my latest project (though still a few months out from publication) and I’m already looking ahead to my next game-related endeavor. My writing schedule, such as it is, must accommodate my other roles in life. I manage to regularly work on projects despite the constant guilt that such activity neglects my household duties, innumerable homeowner projects, and the responsibilities of a father to an inquisitively sharp third grader. The start of a new year has me recovering from a month of preparatory activities for the yuletide holidays and an occasional pilgrimage to visit distant family. My productivity wasn’t helped by recovering from sickness both after the holidays and late January’s inadvertently “plague-themed” birthday party for an acquaintance, in which most guests fell ill in the following week. Yet the days are getting longer, my schedule’s returning to some semblance of order (as much as the Lords of Chaos will allow), and my gaze turns once again to game-writing projects at hand an in the near future.
Tuesday, February 19, 2019
|They don't look like much, but|
they kept me organized.
In my last missive I mentioned some of the boxed sets we assembled at West End Games included cards; it reminded me how I’ve used index cards for non-player characters stats and other useful information in both my home games and products I helped design for West End. Having relevant game material handy remains essential for gamemasters, whether running a pre-published scenario or managing the characters’ free-form sandbox hex- or dungeon-crawl. I don’t always care to page through rulebooks in the middle of a game – though a scenario isn’t quite as onerous to peruse – so having cards around allows me to arrange the core information for an encounter just as I like on the tabletop to maximize ease of reference.
Tuesday, February 5, 2019
Remember when roleplaying games came in boxes packed with multiple rulebooks, cards, dice, and other goodies? What a a joy to revel in opening that box and celebrating each little piece that promised to grant us an exciting gaming experience. Yet how did they get into that gorgeous box in an age before cheaper Chinese manufacturers and robot automation? Humans put them there. Humans working in a stuffy, hot warehouse, mindlessly laboring at an assembly line, putting each component into each box one at a time. For a short while in that glorious age I was one of those humans.
Tuesday, January 29, 2019
“Books serve to show a man that those original thoughts of his aren’t very new after all.”
– Abraham Lincoln
I’m constantly amazed learning about the origins and influences behind Dungeons & Dragons, how even today the roleplaying game hobby continues evolving based on past works “improved” by those who feel they could do a better job...and sometimes actually do. Two publications best illustrate the movements from which D&D derived much of its imaginative power and mechanical implementation: Jon Peterson’s monumental scholarly history Playing at the World and the visually impressive coffee-table tome Dungeons & Dragons Art & Arcana by Peterson and a host of others who have reflected on the origins of the roleplaying game hobby.
Tuesday, January 15, 2019
Several times each year I go on the road to run events at game days and conventions. I have my favorites, most within easy driving distance and an overnight hotel stay. On Sunday, Jan. 27, I’ll make the trek up to Northern Virginia for the NOVAG Game Day at the Centreville Library, where I’ll host a Panzer Kids game. Then on Feb. 15-17 I’ll be in Williamsburg, VA, for the ODMS winter convention, Williamsburg Muster, where I’ll run the obligatory Panzer Kids game and a few other kid-friendly events. If you’re in the area come out and join us or the other folks running engaging miniature wargames.
Tuesday, January 8, 2019
Despite an overly hectic holiday season overshadowed by a week-long pilgrimage to visit family in New England – tempered with a nice persistent head cold – I managed to find some solace amid the chaotic drama and logistical nightmare of traveling at this time of year. My family and friends were quite generous bringing gaming goodness to brighten this darkest time of the year and the bleak winter months (and I’ll admit I treated myself, too). The season offers a reason to indulge and invite others to indulge my adventure gaming interests. This year was no exception. In the past I’ve discussed how the December holidays seem a magical time perfect for such escapist pursuits as board and roleplaying games with friends and family. Although this season was fraught with chaos, I appreciate the game-related cheer that brightened my holidays.