Wednesday, June 30, 2010

[Brick & Mortar] Games and Gizmos

Games and Gizmos
Address: 16150 NE 87th St, Redmond, Washington 98052
Phone: (425) 497-9579

RPGs: good selection
Indie RPGs: limited
Used RPGs: limited
Miniatures: extensive
Boardgames: good selection
Gaming space: excellent (6+ tables)

Family Friendly: yes
Knowledgeable Staff: yes

Overall Rating: good

Games and Gizmos is where I play on alternate Friday nights. Formerly Genesis Games and Gizmos, it recently moved to it's current location, dropped the Genesis from the name, and seems to have more space by my reconing. The schedule of events is available at the front counter - on Friday nights, there is a regular Magic: The Gathering tournament, as well as a 4th edition D&D game, plus our game (lately it's been Savage Worlds). While the noise can get pretty loud on the Magic nights, the overall atmosphere is good. It seems pretty family friendly and has a good selection of board games.

I've been very satisfied gaming there as this is the first time in over a decade that I've actually gamed in a store. After the game, I usually check out the new stuff and recently picked up the newly released Zombie Dice and Cthulhu Dice from Steve Jackson Games. There is plenty of street and lot parking as well as good (and cheap) restaurants nearby.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

[Blogs] An Open Letter to Christian Walker's Destination Unknown Blog

Give us more Master Cylinder!

We want more on the continuing adventures of Master Cylinder - over the years, we've seen that glorious cat sleepin', snackin', in your surf-stuff, lounging on the table before the game, attacking miniatures, laying on the GM's notes and more!

How are we to achieve gaming enlightenment without more MC?

P.S. Also, bring back Iridia and the Lincoln Middles School Dungeons and Dragons Club!

Monday, June 28, 2010

[Vids] Azumi

I got Azumi from Netflix and it was pretty good. While the actress, Aya Ueto, playing the lead was cute, she was kind of wooden when speaking and the other kid assassins were equally unmentionable.

The best characters in the film, IMNSHO, were the assassins' master, Gessai, as well as a whole group of the enemies: the three Sajiki brothers (one of whom had a huge grip on a regular katana); forehead- scarred General Kanbei; Saru, a monkey-like Ninja; and Bijomaru Mogami, a mercenary all in white.

I can see using these characters in a game at some point in the future, especially the mercenary all in white.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

[Blogs] Latest Hullabaloo

The latest Hullabaloo in the gaming world was a recent post by Malcolm Sheppard. It's been posted about on the RPGSite and ENWorld. You can read all the responses and the train-wreck that follows, with luminaries in the industry firing volleys back and forth in a fusilade of recrimination and anger.

I know nothing about marketing, I'll admit up front. I know nothing about running a business, either. I've been a manager of people before and it's not for me. I don't pretend to believe that gamers are inherently artists, nor do I believe that they aren't artists. Gaming, to me, is to have fun. If it's really cool in the process, so much more the better. I don't worry about the growth of the hobby, or the industry's well-being, or anything like that. I've met rude gamers and friendly gamers and all the spectrum in-between - heck, I've been a rude gamer. I want quality products and will state out loud that I want quality products. I complain.

With all that up front, what's the big deal? It seems so much just another Tempest in a Teapot. One man's opinion (which is shared by others, as you can read) says that there is a group of hardcore gamers that are rude to work with and businesses don't want to do it.

Well, there's the rub. Businesses are there to make money, plain and simple. There's no higher calling for business. If there's money to be made there, though, someone's going to be willing to go through the crap of dealing with these undesirables if only to make that money. Businesses operate in the worst conditions, both physical and mental, all over the world, amidst freezing temperatures, armed insurgents, toxic chemicals, chaotic societies, and why? Because there's a profit in it. They make more money than they spend doing it.

Low margins of profit? Still there, doing the job. Bad customers to deal with? Yep, still working. Heck the airlines in America have horrible customer satisfaction (673 out of 1000, 67.3%, is a D in most grade scales), customers all of which would follow this list of Malcolm's:
  • Instead of having social conversations, they focused on concrete goals, like getting to their destinations on time.
  • They related to content in a cynical fashion, especially when the service by the airlines sucked.
  • They dissuaded other users from getting involved with the content, when they were treated like cattle and crammed upon an airplane designed for 10% less of them.
  • They resisted most desired behaviors (that is, the stuff that actually might make money), like paying extra for carry-on baggage.
  • They complained all the goddamn time about the lack of service they were getting from the airlines.
And yet, the airlines are still in business. So the issue isn't customers or marketing or making money or anything like that. The issue, it seems to me IMNSHO, is that someone tries a business and doesn't like dealing with a segment of the customers because they're mean. MEAN!

Try this for mean! When gamers start doing this (8.7 million hits, how many sales were lost do you think?) to mock game companies or those providing online gaming tools, then you've got something to complain about - otherwise, deal with it.

That's all I have to say about this but I'd be interested in your POV.

Saturday, June 26, 2010

[Resources] The Russian Crown Jewels' Ireland Vacation

Didn't know that, did you? The Russian Crown Jewels were in Ireland from 1920 to 1950, the vast majority of time in a soap box in Harry Boland's mother's pantry before they were turned over to the Irish Government in 1938, after which they were locked in a safe until "re-discovered" in 1948. They didn't travel back to Russia until 1950.

Why do you suppose that for 30 years they went from hidden to lost to found? 30 years. That's about right for a fellow (or gal) to grow up, under their protection. Maybe a lost heir to the Russian Throne.

Friday, June 25, 2010

[My Collection] Twilight: 2000 1st edition

Summer, 1984. I was working at a local Boy Scout camp and came home for a weekend to see friends. I spotted Twilight 2000 in one of Seattle's game stores and picked it up. I think it was something like $15 or so.

And it was awesome! So much so that I haven't even looked at the 2.0+ versions because I loved 1.0. has few reviews on it (1), which surprises me, and someone started a thread about Roman games using the starting situation in a 1st Century game (which I'm gonna try sometime).

Thursday, June 24, 2010

[Aftermath!] The D.C. Campaign: Mennonites

Mennonites ("Religees")

Location: Alexandria, Virginia. Bounded by Little River Turnpike (State Route 236) in the north and Old Keene Mill Road (State Route 644) in the south, between Rolling Road (State Route 638) and Guinea Road to S Van Dorn Street (State Route 401 and 613). Includes Northern Virginia Community College, Wakefield Park, Lake Accotink, Long Branch Park, Bradlick Shopping Center, Deerlick Park, Turkeycock Run Stream Valley Park, Franconia Park and Bren Mar Park.

Population: 1500
Military Strength: 470
Military Resources: Few civilian trucks and nearly all non-automatic small arms (shotguns, deer rifles).

Treaties: Treaty Hospital

Enemies: Skinheads, The Agency

Resources: The Mennonites have a extensive farming areas, as well as home-canning, carpentry, horse-breeding and animal herds, blacksmithing and various machine shops, as well as small industry, including ammunition reloading. The extensively salvage in the areas around their holdings but rarely enter the District proper.

Trade: The Mennonites will trade only foodstuffs with outsiders unless they are well-known and trusted. They instituted this policy years ago after some of their salvage finds turned up against them by the Skinheads.

General Reaction: +0 (-20 if known associates of either the Agency or the Skinheads)

Background: These survivors are an amalgam of Virginia Mennonites and several Alexandria area churches. While they try to be non-violent, the world they inhabit usually forces them to defend themselves and that on a regular basis. This has caused the actual Mennonites in the community to question their faith. While on the most part good people, the violence and cruelty of a post-war world has hardened them to the suffering of others in an effort to survive. What this spells for their long-term viability is anyone's guess, as the faith that bound them together is unraveling in the face of the harsh environment.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

[Resources] Symplegades

Who needs a pair of giant rocks bashing together to hold a river passage, smashing everything between them?

I do!

So do you!

The Symplegades were part of the Greek Myth of Jason and the Argonauts. preventing passage through the Bosphorus. They stopped working after the Argonauts got through. But what if their spirits just moved on, to another pair of rocks on another river passage?

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

[The Lost Patrol] Cross-Planes Escapade

Something I've been kicking around in my head for a while: A cross-planes escapade campaign, mixing Savage Worlds and Planescape.

I've made up 3 PCs, all the same person - one is a past version, one is a present version and the last is a future version. Since they all look alike and have a variety of different talents, but remember common things about their history, they don't know who came first. All their memories are grey after a certain point. And they don't know why or WHO have put them in this situation.

I figure the game would be a romp across the Planes, with the PCs trying to find out who did this to them and how they got this way, stumbling through like a blind man running through a maze, hitting (or being hit by) the "walls" they encounter.

"Past, Present, Future. Oy vey!"
"I'm no Berk, Berk!"
"Who are you calling a Berk? I'm you and you're me!"

Past, Present and Future

Agility d8 Spirit d6 Smarts d6 Strength d6 Vigor d6
Pace 6 Parry 6 Toughness 5 Charisma -0-

Edges: Arcane Background: Magic (free), (2 other edges by player choice).

Hindrances: Enemy, Loyal, Quirk.

Skills: Shooting d6, Fighting d8, Spellcasting d6, Stealth d6, Streetwise d4, Linguistics d4, Notice d6, Lockpicking d4.

Power Points: 15
Powers: (individualized by player)

Monday, June 21, 2010

[Cons] Go Play Northwest: After Convention Report

Go Play Northwest happened in Seattle, June 18th thru the 20th. This was the fourth Go Play NW in Seattle and the first that I attended. While I only went on Friday and Saturday, it was a great convention. I was very satisfied with the games I played, all the gamers were very friendly and welcoming, and they came from all over - I met gamers from Victoria, British Columbia, Sacramento, California, and Boston, Massachusetts.

The venue was Richard Hugo House, a literary arts place in a Victorian mansion on the Capital Hill neighborhood of Seattle. There was plenty of room for all the games, with multiple rooms upstairs, a theatre with room for gaming tables and a couple of rooms downstairs.

Friday started with a Feast that included a delicious salad, baked chicken in a mushroom and wine sauce, spinach and ricotta stuffed giant pasta shells, fruit kebabs, garlic mashed potatoes and homemade game-inspired desserts. All of it was delicious but, unfortunately, I don't remember the names of the desserts.

I ate dinner with gamers from California, Colorado and British Columbia. We had a great time, talking about games, where we're from, favorite restaurants, the sights of Seattle, and why they traveled so far to come game in Seattle - to have fun!

After the Feast, I played a game of Mist-Robed Gate with 7 other players, set in the last days of Atlantis. During the game, two PCs were killed by two other PCs (we tied with the Mountain Witch game on PC deaths but we beat them with the deaths by an hour or so). We ran out of time for the final act but everything up to that point was going straight to hell in a hand basket. I really enjoyed learning the system and throwing out ideas for the setting and the scenes.

On Saturday, my friend KM joined me and we arrived early, checking out the game board for the day. A week before the convention started, I had signed us up for the Leverage RPG by Margaret Weis Production for the first session of the day, figuring that having one set game would be good and we'd get into pick-up games for the rest of the day.

We were joined in the Leverage game by a gamer from Boston, C. The GM, B, used the Quickstart Job and KM, new to gaming, played Elliot, I ran Parker and Nate, and Hardison and Sophie were played by C. The game went really well and I am definitely going to be purchasing this game when it comes out.

After lunch at Dick's Drive-In, a Seattle landmark, we ran into PA and talked with him for a bit about GenCon and WotC (though I forgot to ask if he'd used 4th ed. D&D for his home campaigns). He was running Free Market by Luke Crane and Jared Sorensen for the next session but it was all full. Since he had an opening in the third session of the day, he offered to run Free Market for KM and me if we were interested. Oh, yes, we were!

For the second session of the day, I ran a game of Sorcerer using my Escape from New York setting. It went very well, but I find that Sorcerer is a better game for long term play so that we can explore the loss of Humanity and the Needs of the Demons, while the PCs are doing their crazy things. With that in mind, the game was still a success.

During a break, I picked up copies of the Gun Thief by Joe McDonald (of the blog Buried without Ceremony) and the Dreaming Crucible by Joel Shempert (Story by the Throat! Press) for 5 bucks each. What a steal! I've only read over the Gun Thief so far but I look forward to the Dreaming Crucible.

KM and I met up with PA for the third Saturday session and we were joined by G, an excellent gamer who's a sophomore at the University of Washington. We spent about an hour putting together characters and situations for Free Market and it was awesome.

Since death wasn't permanent in Free Market, I played an assassin and mortician, named Mental Image of a Pretty Rainbow and Unicorn ("Rain" for short), who offered a killing and a funeral service, KM's PC Stromboli was the face/promo man and the third PC was in charge of the vids of the event. We called our MRCZ, our company, Phoenix Ritual Rebirth, LLC, with the motto: "A New Day, Tomorrow."

Phoenix Ritual Rebirth, LLC, was hired by Stromboli's cousin Barry to perform a ritual murder involving torture and then the following funeral services. Unfortunately, it all goes to crap but we managed to pull our butts out of the fire. Free Market is a very interesting system, using cards based on specific categories on your character sheets to determine success. I think that this is another game that I'm going to get.

Because of scheduling constraints, I was only able to attend Friday and three sessions on Saturday, so I don't know what happened on Sunday. However, if these two days is any indication, Sunday was just as good.

I thoroughly enjoyed Go Play NW and plan to attend in the future. I hope they return to Hugo House, because it was totally awesome, and the caterer for the dinner was excellent - another must-keep for next year. Thanks to the convention coordinator and it was wonderful meeting all the gamers present. See you next year!

Sunday, June 20, 2010

[Quotes] Gray People Doing Gray Jobs

"We are most days, gray people doing gray jobs. Shadows in a world of black and white. But then you know, every once and awhile we are offered the opportunity where we have the chance to do something that is ABSOLUTELY right to its very core. This is one of those times."

Saturday, June 19, 2010

[Resources] Maps of Historic U.S. Cities

You can find lots of them here, thanks to the University of Texas at Austin, including cities in Oregon, Texas and Georgia, just to name a few.

If that isn't a resource, I don't know what would be.

Friday, June 18, 2010

[How To Play] Savage Worlds, Part 1: Character Creation

I'm running a game for my friend Charley.

We decided on using Savage Worlds Explorer's Edition and it would be a slightly-fantasy Middle Ages setting. For the most part, magic will be mysterious and not in the purview of the main characters. Since Charley likes knights and is a fan of the movie A Knight's Tale, we decide he'll make a character who is a young knight wandering England, participating in jousts for cash money and honor. Arbitrarily, we set the time period to be around 1550ish and allow that the knights are wearing full plate, even if it isn't strictly period.

Savage Worlds has five character ranks: Novice, Seasoned, Veteran, Heroic, and Legendary. As you can see, the rankings go from the least experienced to the most. We agree that Charley's character is going to start as a Novice character. We'll deal with advancement later on in the series, so no worries.

Using the Savage Worlds character creation rules, Charley decided on a young knight, early in his career, a younger son of a rich family. He liked the idea of a seventh son of a seventh son (we'll include this later in character creation), and with a noble lineage. He decided on the name Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Torpington. With this rough character background in place, we start on character stats and abilities.

Savage Worlds characters have attributes, edges, hindrances and skills. Attributes are how strong, fast or smart the character is, edges are the special abilities that the character can perform, like two-fisted fighting or acrobatics, hindrances are weaknesses that define the character, and skills are what the character can do, which are pretty self explanatory. Hindrances give back to the character, so Charley decided to start with that first.

In Savage Worlds, hindrances are divided into major [M] and minor [m]. Each character is allowed one major hindrance and two minor hindrances. This gives the player 2 points to spend for the major and 1 each for the minor on edges, attributes and skills. We'll get into that later. It isn't necessary to have hindrances but since they allow the character to buy more abilities, edges and skills, they're worth reviewing at the least - one may pique your interest.

Looking over the list of hindrances, Charley picks some that seem to fit his character concept. Sir Nicholas is a knight, so it makes sense for him to have a major hindrance of Code of Honor: Chivalry. A good minor hindrance would be Loyal and another would be Quirk. I tell Charley that he can define the Quirk during the game, in order to get the character done quicker plus allow the character to grow during the game.
  • Hindrances: Code of Honor: Chivalry [M], Loyal [m], Quirk [m].
Charley decides to use two of the points from hindrances on attributes and the other two on edges. Two points will increase an attribute by one die type. Two points will buy one edge. Other options include trading one point for an additional skill point or one point to increase starting money.

Next Charley decides on Sir Nicholas' attributes. In Savage Worlds, there are five attributes: Agility, Smarts, Spirit, Strength and Vigor. The attributes are measured in die types: d4, d6, d8, d10, d12, and so on. Agility, Smarts and Strength are pretty easy to figure out. Spirit deals with willpower and connection to other people and Vigor represents overall physical fitness and constitution. All attributes start at a d4 and you get 5 points to distribute among them. Each point increases the attribute up to the next die type.

Since Sir Nicholas is a knight, Strength, Agility and Vigor would be very important, so Charley decided to make Strength a d8 (2 points), Agility a d6 (1 point) and Vigor a d6 (1 point). He chose a Spirit d6 (the last point) to make sure his character strong willed. Charley also uses the two points from the hindrance to raise an additional attribute by one die, and since he doesn't want Sir Nicholas to be too slow, he raises his Agility to d8.
  • Attributes: Agility d8, Smarts d4, Spirit d6, Strength d8, Vigor d6
Edges are special abilities. In Savage Worlds, humans get a free edge to start with and Charley chooses the Noble background edge. Using the remaining two points from his hindrances, he chooses the Luck edge, which gives him an extra Bennie during play. He explains that it matches the seventh son of a seventh son background.
  • Edges: Noble (f), Luck.
Characters in Savage Worlds get 15 points to buy skills. Each skill point increases the die type but, unlike attributes, it is necessary to pay for the d4. Looking over the skill list, Charley chooses Fighting, Shooting, Riding for starters, figuring a knight who can't do that isn't much of a knight. He also writes down Guts, Persuasion, Taunt, Notice and Healing, thinking they'd be useful, too. Now, with skills, the limiting factor is the attribute tied to the skill. If your skill die is equal or less than the tied attribute, the skill points are only one point per die. Over the tied attribute, then it's two points per die.

Charley decides on a Fighting d8 (3 points), Shooting d6 (2 points), Riding d8 (3 points) and Guts d6 (2 points). With five points left, he puts one into each Taunt, Notice and Healing, making each a d4, and two into d6 for Persuasion.
  • Skills: Fighting d8, Shooting d6, Riding d8, Guts d6, Taunt d4, Notice d4, Healing d4 and Persuasion d6.
Now it's necessary for Charley to calculate the derived stats. Parry is based on the Fighting skill. Take half the maximum of the die and add 2, so Sir Nicholas' Parry is 8/2 + 2 = 6. It takes anyone attacking him a 6 to hit him. That's pretty good for a starting character.

Toughness is based on the Vigor attribute. Taking half the maximum of the die and adding 2 makes the young knight's Toughness 5. Not bad. With armor, his toughness will increase.

Since none of the hindrances or edges chosen change the Pace 6, but the Noble Edge changes the Charisma to +2.
  • Derived Stats: Parry 6, Toughness 5, Pace 6, Charisma +2
Sir Nicholas will start the game with a horse, plate armor, a few lances, a long sword and a manservant named Richard. The plate armor adds +3 to his Toughness and weighs 58 pounds. He has a medium shield which adds +1 to his Parry. His father's second-best sword damage is Strength + d8 and the lance does Strength + d8 with an AP 2 and Reach 2 (don't worry, we'll cover all this later). The manservant Richard is just a normal bloke, no need to stat him out until later.

All told, Charley's character looks as follows:

Sir Nicholas de Mimsy-Torpington
Agility d8, Smarts d4, Spirit d6, Strength d8, Vigor d6
Parry 7 (1), Toughness 8 (3), Pace 6, Charisma +2

Edges: Noble (f), Luck.
Hindrances: Code of Honor: Chivalry [M], Loyal [m], Quirk [m].
Skills: Fighting d8, Shooting d6, Riding d8, Guts d6, Taunt d4, Notice d4, Healing d4 and Persuasion d6.

Plate Armor (+3 Toughness, 58 lbs), Medium Shield (+1 Parry), Sword (Damage: STR + d8), Lance (Damage: STR + d8, AP 2, Reach 2).

Thursday, June 17, 2010

[Aftermath!] The D.C. Campaign: Anacostia Yacht Club

Anacostia Yacht Club ("Boaters")

Location: Anacostia Yacht Club and the Washington Navy Yard. Bounded by M Street SE in the north and the Anacostia River in the south, between First Street SE to Water Street SE to the Anacostia River. Includes the 11th Street Bridges.

Population: 120
Military Strength: 50
Military Resources: 2 police cruisers. A large number of sailboats and cabin cruisers. Mostly small arms and a few machine guns mounted on the police boats.

Treaties: The Dead Kennedys, Treaty Hospital


Resources: The AYC occupies the old Washington Navy Yard and the old Yacht Club. The yards themselves have lots of boating gear, from military to civilian craft, incluiding machine shops and motor parts.

Trade: The AYC spend their time sailing up and down the Anacostia and Potomac Rivers, salvaging anything they can find in the buildings along the riverbanks. They also supplement their activities with some river piracy and fishing.

General Reaction: -05

Background: These survivors are some of the formerly wealthy families in the District, with a few navy personnel thrown in the mix. They spend a lot of time trying to recapture their previous wealth and status by looking down on the lower folk while scrabbling and playing politics amongst themselves.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

[Savage Worlds] Urban Fantasy, Session 2: The Assassin's Lament

A whole bunch of people showed up at Games and Gizmos in Redmond on May the 28th. In addition to the regular Mutant Buddha crew of CS, CB, CR, BB, MW, IL and myself, guest players CM, GM (of Corvis Monkey Troupe fame) and PP (up from Cali) joined in the mix. That made 10 players. MW continued the urban fantasy game but the loudness of the shop (it was the regular M:tG tournament night) and the number of players made that difficult.

When last we left the party, an assassin had attempted to kill Milo and the crew thwarted that. A bit of investigation lead various PCs to two different situations: entering the Fae lands or finding out more about the assassin. I offered to help run as an assistant game master to MW and was given the assassin portion of the adventure.

My group consisted of PP (in the role of Milo Goshtashebi, the antiquitarian who was the target of the assassin), CM (playing a Troll of CS's PC Don Ling's acquaintance named Bruce Archer), BB (continuing with teenage cat burglar Tom Steele) and IL (playing the grave-touched Steve Smith).

MW ran the rest of the players into the Fae Lands: CS playing Don Ling the Sidhe, CB as Natasha Ambrosius the Urban Scholar, GM as Conroy Sutcliff, CR as Phyllis Norg the Troll, and my character Nick English, Private Eye (played collectively by the group).

The group learned, through Nick's contacts, that the assassin liked 5 star hotels (of which there are only two in town). Further tracking down leads produced a name (Mr. Speck) and a location (the Chatham Hotel). According to Billy the bell-hop, Mr. Speck was out at the moment but he'd call when he came in. Billy also said the guy had "dead eyes" and was pretty creepy.

I took the opportunity to hand out some Bennies to the players if they came up with some facts and a plan. They came up with the following: Mr. Speck was a hard drinker after finishing a job (which he believed was so), the security system at the Chatham Hotel was on the fritz, and they planned to get him drunk to find out who hired him while Steve ransacked his room. Yes, all plans work as well as they're planned. Since the players figured a five-star hotel would be pretty swank, they raided Don Ling's wardrobe and were spiffed up in nice suits. I even allowed that before Don Ling went off to the Fae Lands, he cast a glamour on Milo to disguise him but I told PP and the group that it was paper-thin - any sort of disturbance, including a verbal altercation, could have it "peel off" and Milo would be exposed!

The call came and Milo, Tom, Bruce and Steve headed over to the Chatham Hotel. They met Billy in the lobby, a large-well appointed room befitting a hotel build in the 1890s. A pair of elevators was at the far end, past sofas and couches scattered around for the patrons use. A variety of plants adorned the room and corridors to rooms, bars and dining rooms went off in all directions. A large chandelier was in the center of the lobby. A large wedding reception was underway and could be seen through the doors to the grand ballroom.

After passing Billy a $20 (illiciting the comment "Where the Hell is Nick?"), the bell-hop told the PCs that Mr. Speck was in the bar and someone left him a note at the front desk. It was only after Billy left that they realized the hotel had three bars: The Gentleman's Bar, a cigar and hard liquor bar; the Garden Bar, a wine bar; and the Common Bar, a sports bar. The PCs split up, each taking a bar, while Steve went to check out the note at the front desk. The plan was that if Mr. Speck wasn't in the bar they went to, they'd then go to the other bars, thereby staggering their entrances in order to appear that they weren't together.

Milo went into the small Gentleman's Bar and spotted Speck. Squeezing past him, he found a spot at a table. Bruce the Troll went to the Common Bar and Tom went to the Garden Bar. After not spotting the assassin, Tom went to the Gentleman's Bar and flashed a fake ID (he's underage) but the darkness and the smokiness of the bar helped him get served. In the Common Bar, I turned to CM and told him they had Bottomless Nachos. I waved a Bennie at him and said he wanted to stay for a bit. CM accepted the Bennie and ordered a beer and nachos, which was very cool because the group was counting on CM's Troll to be their backup!

Steve easily stole the note from the front desk and made a copy of it. It had Milo's name and address as well as a heraldric symbol of a unicorn at the bottom of the paper. Milo started talking to the people around him and Mr. Speck continued to drink. I turned to CM several more times and offered him a Bennie each time - another set of nachos and beer were ordered after each exchange. I had successfully tied up the party's big gun and the looks around the table were priceless. Awesome!

A soft overhead announcement in the lobby and bars said "Will Mr. Speckle please answer the white courtesy phone. Mr. Speckle, the white courtesy phone." I turned to IL, who's PC Steve was in the lobby, and said "The white courtesy phone is right over there. Do you want to answer it?" while waving a Bennie at him. IL demurred so I made it two. That was enough to get his interest so he picked up the phone.

A woman's voice on the other side told Steve that Mr. Speckle had failed them and if the carrot didn't work, then the stick must. A spray of green lightning shot from the phone and struck him, knocking him over into a large potted plant but he managed to make a Vigor roll to avoid any harmful effects. Since he was invisible at the time, IL used his Stealth skill to remain hidden.

Meanwhile, in the Gentleman's Bar, Mr. Speck stood up to go and noticed Milo, turning towards him and looking at him intently. I gave PP an opportunity to figure out that, as an assassin, he would know enough about his target, including what he sounded like.

Milo was made! Turning around, Mr. Speck left the bar, passing by Tom, who promptly and rather successfully picked his pocket. I gave BB the choice of either taking his gun or his wallet. I offered a Bennie if he chose the wallet. Guess what? BB chose the wallet!

Milo and Tom followed Mr. Speck out towards the lobby, getting spotted as they did so. When the assassin came around the corner towards the white courtesy phone, he noticed that it was off the hook, so he looked around and picked up the phone. Calmly, he said that he had reaquired his target and the job would be done soon. After hanging up the phone, he headed towards the elevator.

IL pushed his luck and made his Stealth roll but Mr. Speck rolled a better Notice roll and knew about where he was. I offered IL an opportunity to make a Smarts roll to see if he understood that he was made but he failed. So I gave him a Bennie if he arrogantly assumed that he was safe. IL himself took that to mean he was going to stand right next to Mr. Speck near the elevator.

When Tom and Milo came into the lobby, they spotted Mr. Speck standing by the elevator and were spotted by two Redcap goons hanging out there to back-up the assassin. One of them was the Redcap that got away in the alley. He recognized Tom! That's when Bruce, after eating a metric ton of nachos walked in.


The initiative cards were laid down and I was very lucky to draw an Ace for Mr. Speck and the Redcaps while the players got much less. Mr. Speck went first - with a spin-kick, he dropped Steve, then drew his gun and shot Milo, scoring a Shaken and Wound for each of them. Redcap no. 1 jumped on Tom, Shaking and giving him two Wounds. The other Redcap took a swipe at Bruce but failed to connect. The situation looked pretty bad for the PCs.

IL, BB and PP used up a bunch of Bennies to make their Soak rolls, getting rid of the Shaken condition and their wounds, then they went in their turns. BB had his PC attack the Recap, scoring terrible wounds. CM used a Bennie to state that the chandelier was held up by a rope and fought his Redcap, throwing him under the lights while throwing a knife to slash the rope, causing the chandelier crashing down on both Redcaps.

Steve managed to get his feet under him and pulled his gun, shooting at Mr. Speck's head. He succeed in Shaking and Wounding the assassin. Milo opened up with his pistol, and PP made an incredible roll, scoring over 20 points of damage on Speck - doing enough damage to incapacitate him.

The assassin, Mr. Speck, was shot in the throat and, with his spirit standing still like a tree, his now corpse spun around, spraying the invisible Steve with blood, making him appear as a blood-covered ghost. The body continued spinning, splashing blood all over the bride who had just exited the wedding reception.

The session ended with Steve intimidating the spirit of Mr. Speck, trying to find out who hired him, right before the party made their escape, accompanied by the sounds of police sirens. All he got, though (after a very successful roll), was the assassin's bank account and access codes.

It was a fabulous session and the players had a great time. Especially the use of Bennies to bribe the players against their best interest (or in their best interest). No worries, I'll get the write-up for Session 2 from the other group's adventure and post it soon.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

[Brick & Mortar] Games Plus

Games Plus
Address: 12637 NE Woodinville Dr, Woodinville, WA 98072
Phone: (425) 525-9394

RPGs: good selection
Indie RPGs: limited
Used RPGs: extensive
Miniatures: good selection
Boardgames: good selection
Gaming space: good (3-5 tables)
Comics: average selection

Family Friendly: yes
Knowledgeable Staff: some

Overall Rating: average

Games Plus is one of two game shops in Woodinville, the other being Ernie's Games. The best thing going for it is all the out-of-print gaming supplies and comics. While it doesn't compare to Gary's Games in Greenwood for used items nor does it even approach The Dreaming for comics content, I've found some good items there that have defied explanation - "How the hell did this get here?!?"

I found out recently that Games Plus is moving to Lake Stevens, some 20 miles away, at the end of June. That means I probably won't go visiting very often nor will I buy my comics there anymore. It will just be too far away for a regular visitation. Whether Games Plus will remain in business, especially when moving away from a stable location to an unknown area, in the long term, will be interesting to note. It may just disappear, like so many other game shops over the years.

Monday, June 14, 2010

[Alignment] Chaotic Evil

Chaotic Evil, "Destroyer"

A chaotic evil character does whatever his greed, hatred, and lust for destruction drive him to do. He is hot-tempered, vicious, arbitrarily violent, and unpredictable. If he is simply out for whatever he can get, he is ruthless and brutal. If he is committed to the spread of evil and chaos, he is even worse. Thankfully, his plans are haphazard, and any groups he joins or forms are poorly organized. Typically, chaotic evil people can be made to work together only by force, and their leader lasts only as long as he can thwart attempts to topple or assassinate him.

Chaotic evil is sometimes called "demonic" because demons are the epitome of chaotic evil.

Chaotic evil is the most dangerous alignment because it represents the destruction not only of beauty and life but also of the order on which beauty and life depend.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

[Cons] I'm going to Go Play Northwest

I'm going to Go Play Northwest this upcoming weekend (June 18-20). I look forward to playing some cool games, meeting local (and not so local) gamers and having a good time.

If you're going to be there, let me know!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

[Graduation Day] Today, I Walk!

I am officially the most educated person in my direct family. The ceremony started a half-hour ago. Wish me luck!

Friday, June 11, 2010

[Vids] Strange Days and Demolition Man

In the 1990s, there were two dystopian action flicks, Strange Days and Demolition Man, each with different tones and situations that resonated deeply with me when I saw them in the theatre. Recently, I got both from my local library.

Each film posited a future where society was on the brink. In the case of Demolition Man, a society, that had taken all the undesirable elements and shoved them underground to maintain the appearance of a gentler, more civilized society, suddenly needed those same undesirable elements to solve their problems. In Strange Days, during a countdown to the year 2000, society is wracked by police violence and social unrest, murder and obsession.

I really enjoyed watching both, seeing how they've held up to time in the intervening years. The last scene in Strange Days with Vincent D'onofrio, covered with blood and handcuffed to the corpse of his partner (who just committed suicide to avoid jail), dragging the dead body towards Angela Basset and Ralph Fiennes, with a gun ready and intent on killing them both, while surrounded by police and rioting crowds, was excellent. Kathryn Bigelow later on went to direct the Hurt Locker (currently on my Netflix list).

These films got my imagination working on a near-future dystopian-style, maybe cyber-punk, game. Watch them and let me know what you think.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

[Aftermath!] The D.C. Campaign: The Dead Kennedys

The Dead Kennedys

Location: Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium, Washington, D.C.

Population: 770
Military Strength: 235
Military Resources: Few small arms, mostly hand weapons, including sports based equipment (baseball bats and football gear). Limited civilian vehicles.

Treaties: Treaty Hospital

Enemies: Pentagon (the isolationist faction, see below)

Resources: This group supplements growing crops in the stadium proper by scavenging a wide-range of materials across the District.

Trade: A wide variety of goods scavanged from D.C., including electronics, medicine, canned food and hand weapons.

General Reaction: -5 (+5 from people with Treaty Hospital).

Background: The Kennedys came from a mix of sports teams, fans and journalists who used the stadium as a defensible base to keep the mobs and gangs at bay during the dark years. Using the equipment available at the stadium, as well as small arms raided from nearby police and national guard armories, they managed to keep the stadium and area around from descending into total chaos. They were one of the first communities to support Treaty Hospital.

Currently, the leadership is going through some in-fighting which hasn't come to direct violence or assassination yet, but it's only a matter of time. One faction is focused on isolation and taking what they need, no matter the consequences, while the other faction wants to increase trade and communications through the nearby communities.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

[Characters] XZ-31f

Infiltrator XZ-31f Terminator ("fembot" model)

Novice + 48 XP (Novice + 9 Advances + 3 XP)
Agility d10, Smarts d4, Spirit d8, Strength d8, Vigor d8
Pace 6, Parry 7, Toughness 6, Charisma -0-

Infiltrator XZ-31f (Smarts Limitation, Electrical Susceptibility, Wanted/Secret, Clueless, Vengeful, Heartless), Curious [M], Doubting Thomas [m], Quirk [m]

Infiltrator XZ-31f (Construct, Machine Healing, Psionic Immunity, Level-Headed, Attractive, Technosavvy), Luck, Improved Level Headed, Frenzy, Improved Frenzy, Marksman, Trademark Weapon (Fighting), Trademark Weapon (Shooting)

Fighting d10, Shooting d10, Notice d4, Guts d4, Stealth d4, Persuasion d4, Tracking d4, Survival d4, Knowledge (Tactics) d4, Repair d6

The Infiltrator XZ-31 was one of the early model Terminators designed to infiltrate and subvert a human stronghold. The -31f (fembot model) was specifically designed to seduce sentries and guards, gain access to secure locations and "destroy from within." The outer human skin, actually grown from vats, and the inner skeleton and drive train was the top of the line. Unfortunately, in an attempt to make the Infiltrator "more human" a slave human brain was incorporated into the system. The interface between the brain and the onboard computer was faulty, resulting in a lowered intelligence factor.

The machine proved to be able to physically infiltrate quite well into human communities, but the social interaction program was very limited, leading to most of them being discovered by wrong answers to the simplest questions that most humans knew. This "common knowledge" gap, as well as an electrical grounding issue that made them particularly susceptible to electrical damage, lead to the introduction of the Infiltrator YA series within two system cycles, which became the model standard ever after. Several dozen decommissioned XZ-31 models, including an unknown number of -31fs, were lost during a raid 15 system cycles ago by a human resistance group and their current whereabouts and activities are unknown. Many are believed to have been successfully re-programmed and operational in the field.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

[How To Play] Introduction

In an effort to evangelize more about games I love, I've decided to start a series about how to play various games. I plan to cover most of the details of character creation, combat, skills and any other specific details that will help you to play or run a game.

I'll start with Savage Worlds and go from there. Let me know what you think.

Monday, June 7, 2010

[Labyrinth Lord] Magic Weapons, Part 2

Part 2 of an article I wrote this for last year's Lincoln Middle School D&D Club newsletter by Christian Walker. This article continues the magic item by parts for other weapons.

Axes, Maces and Spears - Oh, My: The Next Set of Weapons

Last time, I wrote about parting out magic swords to allow characters to keep using their old weapons and developing their weapons throughout the game. But I left out axes, spears, and more. So here are the rules for those weapons as well.

An axe, warhammer, spear, morning star, mace or polearm have nearly the same parts: they all have a haft/handle or shaft, a grip and a head. Assuming that a tassel can be added as well as an end cap or spike on the handle, most of these weapons have 5 slots, same as swords.

Some examples include: an axe, hammer or mace has an end cap or spike, haft, grip, tassel and head. A morning star has a haft, grip, chains and two heads. A spear or other pole arm has the end cap or spike, shaft, grip, tassel and head.

Axe hafts can be used on other, similiar-sized weapons, like morning stars and maces, even picks. A spear shaft can be used on most polearms. Incorporating most parts into a weapon take the same amount of time as swords, about a half-hour with the appropriate tools. An enchanted head replica is incorporated into a current weapon in the same way as swords, with the sympathetic ritual.

I've changed up the various tables below to made more unique weapons.

Table I: Magic Weapon Modifier, Roll 1d6
1. +1
2. +1 vs. animal (GMs choice)
3. +1 vs. monster (GMs choice)
4. special attack (see Table III)
5. special effect (see Table IV)
6. cursed weapon (see Table V)

Table II: Magic Weapon Part, Roll 1d6
1. Head
2. Shaft/Haft
3. Grip
4. Tassel
5. End Cap/Spike
6. GMs Choice

Table III: Special Attack, Roll 1d6
1. +1 vs demons
2. +1 vs giants
3. +1 vs undead
4. +1 vs elementals
5. +1 vs sea creatures
6. +1 vs demi-human or human

Table IV: Special Effect, Roll 1d6
1. flaming weapon
2. stunning
3. ethereal
4. +0 weapon (it's magical but doesn't improve the attack)
5. level drain
6. cold weapon

Table V: Cursed Weapon, Roll 1d6
1. -1 weapon
2. berserker
3. cowardice (save vs. Fear or run away)
4. -2 weapon
5. delusion
6. reduces dexterity to 3

Sunday, June 6, 2010

[Resources] Viking Runestones

The Vikings placed Runestones all around the world, from England to all the way to Greece, with messages that praised their gods, celebrated their heroes and honored their dead.

They are a pretty cool image to include in any type of game, from fantasy to modern to even future (alien runestones, anyone). Their purpose should be mysterious, their magic unfathomable.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

[Monsters] XZ-31

Infiltrator XZ-31, early model Terminator

The Infiltrator XZ-31 was one of the early model Terminators designed to infiltrate and subvert a human stronghold. The outer human skin, actually grown from vats, and the inner skeleton and drive train was the top of the line.

Unfortunately, in an attempt to make the Infiltrator "more human" a slave human brain was incorporated into the system. The interface between the brain and the onboard computer was faulty, resulting in a lowered intelligence factor. The machine proved to be able to physically infiltrate quite well into human communities, but the social interaction program was very limited, leading to most of them being discovered by wrong answers to the simplest questions that most humans knew.

This "common knowledge" gap, as well as an electrical grounding issue that made them particularly susceptible to electrical damage, lead to the introduction of the Infiltrator YA series within two system cycles which became the model standard ever after. Several dozen decommissioned XZ-31 models were lost during a raid 15 system cycles ago by a human resistance group and their current whereabouts and activities are unknown. Many are believed to have been successfully re-programmed and operating in the field.

Using the Savage Worlds Slipstream Alien Race Generator:

Infiltrator XZ-31: Net: +2


  • Limited intelligence: Smarts restriction: -3
  • Electrical Susceptability: -2
  • Wanted/Secret (Major): -2
  • Clueless (Major): -2
  • Heartless: -1
Hindrances Total: -10


  • Construct: +3
  • Machine Healing: +2
  • Psionic Immunity: +4
  • Level-Headed: +2
  • Technosavvy (Repair d6): +1
Edges Total: +12

Friday, June 4, 2010

[Auld Lang 'Zine] 1001+1 Nights, Issue #0

Issue #0, One Thousand and One Nights and One Night RPG Campaign Design 'zine

Here's the first issue of my old One Thousand and One Nights and One Night RPG Campaign Design 'zine, even though it's correctly labeled Issue #0.

I had been kicking around the idea of starting a 'zine for a while, after reading Christian Walker's excellent Scrollworks and Iridia 'zines and finally, while in the midst of grad school studying, decided to pull the hammer on it.

Since I was determined to have a two-page PDF, I wanted to know what it would be like to do a single page. If I could do one page, I could probably do two. So I wrote this short introduction, and jumped all around with the subjects, creating a mish-mash of content.

I remember writing this 'zine using Open Office and not building a stable nameplate (often mistaken as a masthead) that I did for later 'zines because I had so many problems it. I used Chiller for the titles and Georgia for the text.

The icon of the skeleton was a style choice for the nameplate - each subsequent issue has part of this series of skeleton woodcuts, showing only one skeleton or character at a time. I remember really liking this little bit of graphic and I don't think I had to repeat any more than twice in the course of the 50 issues.

I start several long-running subjects, including My Style and Actual Play, not to mention What I'm Reading and Quotes (both used for this blog, too).

I added only two game notes to the webpage:
And the links are still working, an amazing thing with the ever-changing internet.

As a first-try, I'm moderately pleased.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

[Aftermath!] The D.C. Campaign: Treaty Hospital

Treaty Hospital ("Doc")

Location: D.C. General Hospital, Washington, D.C. Located between 19th Street SE and the Anacostia River, from Independence Avenue SE to G Street SE.

Population: 200
Military Strength: -0-
Military Resources: -0-

Treaties: Spook Hill, UFP, FAA, Naval Observatory, The Monastery, Arlington Hall, The Pentagon, The Dead Kennedys, Anacostia Yacht Club, Mennonites.

Enemies: The Skinheads, The WPRC

Resources: The largest medical center in the city. Practically any pre-Ruin procedure is available, for a price.

Trade: Mainly medical procedures, supplies and equipment.

General Reaction: +5 (+10 if you can pay the doctors' fees).

Background: In the midst of the Ruin, D.C. General opened it's doors to the wounded and dying masses. Early on, most of the survivors realized the value of a medical community and have been protecting the Treaty Hospital ever since.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

[Resources] Cubesat!

Want a cheap, easy to deploy satellite for a futuristic game? Get a Cubesat!

For only about $80,000, universities across the globe are building and launching these small satellites, measuring about 1 litre (10 cm cube), from off-the-shelf electronics components.

Building these devices allows scientists to test a variety of space and technology projects. Part of the price includes adding the Cubesat to the Poly-PicoSatellite Orbital Deployer (P-POD) and launching it into space.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

[Blog] I added an RSS feed

I think I did it right.

Let me know if it doesn't work for you. (And by doesn't work for you, I mean the RSS link does not provide the requisite connection, not that the whole thought of RSS feeds makes you feel squidgy and you think that they may be some way for the government to mark you with the sign of the beast).