Playtest: Dream Askew

Yesterday I got a chance to play Avery Alder’s Dream Askew (Buried Without Ceremony) for the first time. We tried a playtest of the new edition for which a Kickstarter funding campaign was ending today (you can still pre-order through the page afterwards.) The book is going to contain two takes on the system:

  • Dream Askew proper, where you play members of a queer enclave in a post-apocalypse setting (written by Avery);
  • Dream Apart, where you play inhabitants of a Jewish shtetl in a fantastical-historical Eastern Europe (written by Benjamin Rosenbaum).

Both make me want to play, and I hope to have a chance to try Dream Apart soon. The art looks wonderful for both settings, and amazing contributors have been added through stretch goals. I expect the final result to be a delight.

Preparation

In addition to the playtest materials available on her website, Avery was also kind enough to share a draft of the “How to Play” chapter for our playtest. I love how caring, generous and thoughtful Avery’s writing is. The chapter provides advice for the play environment and behaviours, not just the mechanical aspects.  Continue reading “Playtest: Dream Askew”

Play Report: Fate of the Inquisitor

Inquisitors are a dour lot.

After a delay of over two years, I finally ran Fate of the Inquisitor for the first time yesterday at KublaCon.  It was a moral victory to finally be able to do this!

This game is my hack using:

  • the rules of War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus I wrote for Evil Hat Productions (PDF available on a pay-what-you-want basis on DriveThruRPG, and Open Content rules on Fate SRD);
  • the Warhammer 40,000 (WH40K) setting,
  • particularly  as  presented in the Dark Heresy role-playing game from Fantasy Flight Games/Ulisses Spiele, and
  • borrowing the random tables from my husband’s Fiasco 40K playset for, well, Fiasco.

Why? Because on the one hand I don’t enjoy the native system for Dark Heresy, it’s just not my cup of tea; and on the other, we have a bazillion WH40K miniatures which were handy to demonstrate the miniatures rules for Fate from War of Ashes: Fate of Agaptus. 

I had four players, including my husband Edmund. The other three players (the very nice Gregg, Thomas, and Jon) were new faces to us and to each other. Edmund is well-versed in both the WH40K universe and in the Fate rules I was using, of course. However, the other players had minimal knowledge of either setting or mechanics. Their role-playing background was primarily from games like D&D or GURPS, and were there to learn about the Fate system.  Continue reading “Play Report: Fate of the Inquisitor”

My Welcome Back

I did not have a good weekend. On Friday night after eating lightly, I started feeling the same abdominal pain I had felt in November from appendicitis. At the time, I was treated with antibiotics but warned that in 40% of cases treated this way, patients eventually still have to have an appendectomy. Hey, people buy lottery tickets for much worse odds! But this time, it had to go. I didn’t wait, I asked Edmund to take me to the Emergency Room where I was admitted, prepped (I’m currently on blood thinners so that means bringing my coagulation rate down), and operated on. Hurray for laparoscopy and highly skilled medical teams!

I was discharged today (Tuesday) and I had a collection of Kickstarter deliveries waiting for me:

KS loot!

Continue reading “My Welcome Back”

Black Panther: Spoiler-Free Mini-Review

We saw Black Panther and it was even better than I had hoped. It’s now a strong contender for best Marvel movie ever, and therefore, for best superhero movie ever.

  • Visuals and special effects: 5. The most gorgeous eye-candy delight Marvel Studios have ever brought us. In scale and poise it holds its own against Asgard, and is much more joyous and colourful. Every visual choice was very carefully made. The tribes of Wakanda feel very different yet true and (mostly) unified.
  • Soundtrack: 4. Good mix of pop, traditional, and orchestral music.
  • Writing: 4.5. I have very few quibbles; the main one is that some characters I would really have liked to see again appear to have died the Final Death. But the dialogue is fun and smart, and the pace is good. Also, reflections on insular and and nationalist attitudes well-suited for our times, by a film-maker who cut his teeth on current events.
  • Casting: 5. There was not one actor I didn’t love, the choices were excellent all around. The characters’ personalities shone brightly and the lines were well delivered.
  • Direction: 4.5. Superb attention to detail and sense of an overarching vision. Ryan Coogler assembles the funny, dramatic, sad, tense, and absurd moments into a lifelike tapestry. I really enjoy the glances that characters exchange, the little non-verbal moments. Some exposition, but really not that much considering the amount of material the movie brings in, and well handled.
  • Editing: 4.5. Tight. Even the slower or more solemn moments did not feel like self-indulgence.
  • Superheroics: 4.5. The only problem is that the Black Panther suit is, well, black and can be a little hard to follow in the action. But the fights were definitely larger than life.
  • Diversity: 4.9. As the meme says, they even had two Tolkien white guys (Andy “Gollum” Serkis as Ulyses Klaue/Klaw, and Martin “Bilbo” Freeman as Agent Everett Ross.) Gender, orientation, and ability diversity not really showcased.
  • Feminism: 5. It passes the Bechdel test as well as the Strong Female Protagonist benchmark. Female characters have their own agendas and goals, their own opnions and methods. You can’t swing a dead panther in this movie without hitting a cool female character doing cool stuff.
  • The Edward S. Curtis Award for Anthropological Detail goes to Ryan Coogler and the set design team for the futuristic Wakandan buildings in the style of the Songhai and Aksum empires.

My take on it: who says intersectional social justice is dour? This is the bomb!

 

 

Taking Threadbare out for a spin!

This weekend I ran a short adventure of the game Threadbare via VoIP for three of my friends, and I think we all had a good time. Designed and published by Stephanie Bryant, the game’s production was funded through a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2016, and is now available on DriveThruRPG.

Threadbare is a stitchpunk role-playing game set in a broken world populated by broken toys. Your character starts out as a Mekka (a hard-shelled, plastic or metal toy), a Sock (a single sock, often thought to have been lost in the laundry), or a Softie (a soft-filled toy).

This game is about repairing things that are broken. From the characters, their stuff, their vehicles, even the world itself—everything is damaged in some way. The players’ job is to fix it.

We only had about three hours to play so we created characters and I ran the very shortest introduction adventure offered in the book, called “Furry Road.” But since all Threadbare adventures are designed as mad-lids, the replay value is high, and this intro game dovetails easily into further adventures.

Here are the characters (images created by the respective players), and the opponents they met:

Cookie Furryosa (played by Bryanna) was a bossy but relatable bright pink muppet-type with one Minion eye and a purple sash. Somewhat grumpy yet always ready with a fun story. (Also, Bryanna gave her an awesome voice.)

Shadow’s Keep (played by Fish) was a Bunch of Little Guys, specifically a set of D&D miniatures, including three goblins (one was named Carl), two goblin wolf riders, one goblin sorcerer, a rogue, a sorceress, a gnome illusionist, a dwarven fighter, an elven bow user and a fairy dragon.

Dream Car (played by Edmund) was a former Barbie Dream Car Jeep. She had been the subject of a horrible teen goth punk home art project when her owner became an angsty teen and was now painted in a bad attempt at “Dia de Los Muertos” art with slogans like “Fuck the Police” and “Eat Your Parents.” Barbie and Ken’s plastic heads adorned her front bumper and she had plastic spikes and various “Mad Max” additions. She didn’t really understand what happened and still mostly thought of herself as a fun, cute, pink roadster that could be loved by children and have fun adventures.

The ACTION FIGURES (opposing the heroes) took themselves very seriously. In the picture, back row from left to right: Clarence, Donatello, Merle, Barnaby, and Stu. Front row: Pluto.

Big Bad Con is the best! – Part 3

Program, badge, buttons

Sunday Supers

(This is my continued recap of my weekend at Big Bad Con.)

I had once again gone to bed well after midnight and thinking about what my husband Edmund had to miss by going home to give the cats their medication every night. He was running the second instance of “The League of Extraordinary Felines: 1954” in the morning, but I had signed up for a different game because I thought Edmund’s scenario was the same one I had played two or three times.

I knew Edmund was hoping to see me in his game, I knew  I was going to have fun playing a cat again, so I used the online to cancel my signup for the other game (which really sounded awesome, by the way, but that’s Big Bad Con for you: too many awesome games.) I was really glad that, thanks to the online system, the GM would know I had dropped and someone else would be able to sign up to take my spot.

I got up even blurrier than the morning before—where is the gamer resilience of yesteryear?—but I packed my bags for later checkout and went to Starbucks to grab coffee since a 20-oz Starbucks latte was only 35¢ more than a 12-oz. drip coffee downstairs! To be virtuous, I also got us some fruit salads for breakfast, then made my way to the game room.

“The League of Extraordinary Felines: 1854” was a new adventure featuring last year’s characters, using the Mutants & Masterminds 3rd. ed. system (Green Ronin Publishing.) Our group was composed of Kendra, playing Pluto, master of the mystical arts; Sarah, playing Dinah the fairy cat; Christine (not the same Christine as Saturday) playing Ta Miu the master of eternal life and time; Xander, playing Mr. Twitchett the gadgeteer and tinkerer; and me, playing Growltiger the brick.

It’s the fourth time Edmund runs this setup at a convention and so far, no one has ever signed up because of the system; at best, people remember playing it at some point, but all say that they signed up because they wanted to play a cat! As usual, we had a lot of fun. We investigated murder most foul, faced giant Sumatra rats, then confronted the immense Ratzilla! Growltiger was formidable against minion rats, and Ratzilla was defeated thanks to the combined cleverness of Mr. Twitchett and the rest of the team.

After the cat game we grabbed a couple of burgers and fries from the hotel restaurant (they are quite good and I nominate this as the best value for the dollar on the menu), and headed for the last game of the weekend. Edmund and our friend Adi were signed up but I had been unable to snag a spot in time. I was hoping to crash the game, but I saw mid-morning that one player had just dropped so I immediately contacted the host! So that’s another thumbs-up for all-online signups.

 

Witch: The Road to Lindisfarne

The game was Witch: The Road to Lindisfarne (Pompey Crew Design), a GM-less story game where a witch convicted of bringing the plague is taken to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne, where a harsh ritual will be performed to cleanse her.

Our party included all six characters in the playset: our host Gretchen Burneko as Ham the Romani guide; Justin as the demanding Sir Hayden; Edmund as the somber Sir Thorne; Alyssa as Brother Armand, wrestling with his faith and conscience; Adi as the witch; and me as Berrick, Sir Hayden’s squire (yes, I kept thinking “Baldrick.”)

It was an intense game and everyone gave great role-playing performances, particularly Adi who was a most splendid, unsettling, and heart-wrenching witch.

The game and the weekend were over all too soon; we said our goodbyes and headed home, tired but pleased with our time at Big Bad Con.

Big Bad Con is the best! – Part 2

(This is my continued recap of my weekend at Big Bad Con.)

Saturday Switcheroo

I woke up and showered groggily. Edmund got to the hotel to set up for the first instance of his Mutants & Masterminds game, “The League of Extraordinary Felines – 1854.” I went to get us coffee at the ad-hoc counter near the Big Bad Con registration desk ($4.00 for drip coffee… I know BBC offers free coffee but I was too groggy to find it!) and new buttons for completing playbooks in Big Bad World.

After taking his coffee and button to Edmund, I went to the Teens Room where my friend Christine’ Marvel Heroic Roleplaying game was scheduled. I so wanted to play this game! the premise was awesome: set after the events of Captain America: Civil War, you are trying to break the Avengers from their cells on the Raft, the mobile supermax prison. And Christine is a great GM. But unfortunately, she only had two players show up and that was just too few for the adventure to work.

Christine and I decided to go pick up boarding passes for Games on Demand, so we could at least play together. We ended up in Brian Williams’ game of Juggernaut (Bully Pulpit Games.) Brian played the bureaucratic Mr. Brasseau, Aaron was the visionary Dr. Takahashi, Ian play the detached Dr. Dörflinger, Tom played the shadowy Simms, Christine played the earnest Dr. Chandrakar, and I was the results-minded Major Van Der Meer. And of course Juggernaut was always right.

Christine and I met with folk, including my husband Edmund, Christine’s husband Alan, and our friend Adi, when we took a break for lunch. We were hurrying to get back to Games on Demand for the next time block and restaurant service was slow. Amidst the hustle and bustle thanks to the large number of people trying to sign up for GoD, we were unable to get Adi, Christine, Edmund, and I seated at the same game. Christine and Edmund decided to go home (Christine to her adorable three-year-old, Edmund to our elderly cats), and Adi and I landed in a game of Dungeon World (Sage Kobold Productions.)

Our party was composed of Simon, playing Thalian the elven fighter; Adi, playing Kaylin Moravis the elven ranger; William, playing Jez the vulpine (kitsune– or anthropomorphic fox-like) bard; [Name Withheld], playing Rikrakrok the gnome wizard; and me, playing Lynniel Bonebreaker the barbarian.

The game was run by Arthur Berman, a first-time visitor to Big Bad Con. I thought he was a great GM: considerate, clear, smart, quick to think on his feet, and well-versed about his game. I hope he will come back to Big Bad Con! He had a a difficult player to deal with but handled it well. [Name Withheld] was creative and enthusiastic but turned out to be uninterested in listening to anyone but himself. He did not play well with others.

[Name Withheld], this note is for you: I know this was your first time playing a game Powered by the Apocalypse, and I also suspect you’re pretty young (but I’m not good at guessing age.) You are smart and have a lot of fun ideas, and I hope you soon learn to listen to other people around the table—and not just in games, either. You will have much more fun and make friends when you start bouncing these ideas with others, and make others shine in the game as much you want to shine yourself.

In the mean time, my barbarian ended collapsing the cursed temple onto Rikrakrok the gnome wizard’s head and mine, rather than let its mojo fall into an enemy’s hands. I met Death and was turned into a paladin of Order!

After the game I said goodbye to Adi, who was going to have dinner with her husband and adorable kid, and went to my room for a nap before the game I was running from 8pm to midnight. I ordered room service so I could get dinner while reviewing my game notes.

Then I went to the scheduled room and ran Alas for the Awful Sea (Storybrewers Roleplaying) for three wonderful players: Manuel, who played Luther the old sea dog; Jacob, who played Captain Zacharias Nielsen; and Ariel, who played Mrs. Pleasance Houston, a merchant. I will post a detailed game summary later, but in short the game went well; I had a blast and I think the players enjoyed it too.

Tomorrow: Sunday Supers!

Big Bad Con is the best! – Part 1

A recap of my time at Big Bad Con this weekend.

Friday Frenzy

As staff, I had spent much time earlier in the week seeing to last-minute changes, especially finding replacement game masters willing to run replacement games for cancelled events, as well as preparing the games I was scheduled to run and assembling stuff to bring. On Friday morning I had planned to finish packing my bags and, with my husband, heading over to the convention hotel in Walnut Creek as early as possible.

Because of the California wildfires on top of the usual complement of inevitable but sad surprises for a number of people (illnesses, financial disasters, etc.), we had another wave of GM cancellations on Friday morning, so I scrambled to  notify players and fill a few last replacement games, but I am sorry to say I was not able to get to the ones that came in after 10:30am. Edmund and I scrambled to finish packing, grab sandwiches we ate on the road, and get to the convention for noon. I was stressed and tired and afraid I had forgotten some important task.

But walking in meant immediately running into a lot of wonderful people, most of which I see only online and at game conventions. Everyone looked excited and happy. I felt welcomed, reassured. While I checked in at the front desk, Edmund got our badges at Registration. The staff of the Walnut Creek Marriott had our room ready so we dropped our luggage and headed for our shift as Games on Demand GMs.

Of the four 2-hour games I offered, we ended up playing Tara Zuber’s Fate World Loose Threads for the whole time. I will recap the game in a separate post, but it was tons of fun.

We grabbed some dinner from the hotel restaurant’s buffet, chilling with friends, then Edmund had to leave. Normally, one of us would have made the round-trip home (45 minutes each way) to feed the cats once a day. Unfortunately, one of our cats (Ubaid the Destroyer of Stuff) was diagnosed with thyroid disorder a couple of weeks before, following quick and substantial weight loss. He’s now on methimazole every 12 hours and we’re trying to get him to gain weight. It made more sense to go home at night, and return in the morning. Since I was on staff, Edmund volunteered to do the daily round-trip and ended up missing much of the convention, which was a real shame. When Ubaid’s condition is stabilized, this will hopefully not be needed anymore.

After dinner, I played in Tracy Barnett’s first playtest of very early concepts for Fate of Karthun (part of the stretch goals for Karthun: Lands of Conflict.) We had a full table, six players. We were sent by the Underwatch of Narhal to investigate the theft of the Black Cabinet! I played Kistkatsa, a Lizardfolk bard who reminded me of my beloved T’skrang bard in Earthdawn. I enjoyed the character’s combination of flamboyance and powerful support for other party members.

The key thing in Karthun is that there is no such thing as a small adventure. Even when things start as small as retrieving a stolen piece of furniture, things are guaranteed to become epic—next thing you know, you find yourself sealing a breech between universes! Thank you to Tracy, Jim, Oscar, Eric, Tom and Yann for a fun evening with great roleplay.

It was double fun for me, since I’m also the Evil Hat project manager for the creation of this GM guide. It’s always exciting to see a project take shape. [Note: Karthun is Brian Patterson’s brainchild, used in his webcomic d20 Monkey.]

I crawled to bed after midnight, trying to figure out why I had all these aches after merely sitting at a table to game most of the day.

Tomorrow: Saturday Switcheroo!

Gaming Because Global Warming

We’re having a record-breaking heatwave here. It’s really alarming for all the people who don’t have air conditioning, by the way, especially the poor and elderly.

We don’t have air conditioning either but we have a mother-in-law unit that was built in the back of the garage and faces north, never getting direct sunshine though it has a good deal of natural light. This is the coolest part of the house, by quite a bit—and it serves as our gaming lair as well as occasional guest room.

We were left no choice but to retreat there and play games. We huddled around the Chromebook and played The Watch (Anna Kreider and Andrew Medeiros) on Roll20, with GM Bryanna and players Fish, Dani, and us. We’re at the very beginning of our campaign but we’ve already cooked up some really nice links and potential; conflicts between our characters and clans. Lots of proper drama in the wings.

And last night and tonight, we once more took to adventuring in Gloomhaven, making our way through the sinister sewers (completed Scenarios #18 and #23).

 

KublaCon and the Stately Pleasure Dome

We just spent a nice weekend at KublaCon. Yes, I managed to go to a game convention without any medical emergencies! In fact, I felt very good.

Since KublaCon takes place at a nearby hotel we can drive to in about ten minutes, it is affordable for us — we don’t have to rent a hotel room, we get to sleep in our own bed, no worries about feeding the cats… In many ways, that is the best feature of the convention for us.

Pluses about the organization and amenities: the senior staff seems to take problems reported very seriously, including safety and harassment; all volunteers and staff I talked to were cheerful, helpful, and friendly; there is open wifi service everywhere in the hotel; and the atrium area is pleasant to hang out in for open gaming.

Minuses: the hotel and events are not very accessible, I saw several people with canes, wheelchairs or scooters labouring to get around the maze of tables, stairways, and corridors; parking is discounted but still $10 a day, and difficult to get on Saturday and Sunday; and game registration uses the hated shuffler system (a post topic for another day.)

The game listings are not very oriented toward my type of play, but there is enormous choice for people who like the D&D Adventurers’ League, Pathfinder Society, or board games. Still, we managed to have four days of fun and see lots of friends.

The unfortunate registration desk layout

Friday afternoon: The Lost Age

On Friday afternoon, we had hoped to get into a game of Monster of the Week, but it was full. However, in the same room was a game of the soon-to-be-officially-released The Lost Age, and none of the players who had signed up showed up (Friday afternoons can be difficult to schedule for people who have to work or are traveling.) We heard GM and author Keith Leiker pitch his game to wandering players, so decided to jump in and make the game happen. I’m not going to describe it because I wrote a comprehensive review of it yesterday, but I liked it.

[Edit: We also managed to get our Sixth Gun RPG books signed by author Scott A. Woodard!]

2017-06-06-11-58-38.jpg

Friday night: Headspace

On Friday we managed to get into a game with GM Kasi Jammeh, who was running a game Powered by the Apocalypse, Headspace. You can think of Headspace as allowing you to play something like Sense8, a group of telepathically linked characters who can share skills.

I was very interested in this game. However, half the group of players were in the mood for wacky hijinks, while Edmund and I, at least, were looking for dark adventure and intense emotional turmoil. Don’t get me wrong, it was a congenial evening, but I didn’t really get the experience I was looking for.

Saturday: Hanging out

Yep, I’m old. Gaming until midnight got me really tired. I woke up at 11am, and only because Edmund brought me coffee. We moseyed on over to the convention and met with friends, hanging out in the atrium. Our friend A. brought her six-year-old daughter H. and I ran a freeform game of runaway fairies and bridge trolls. It was H.’s first RPG and she apparently really liked it.

We went home around dinner time, since we didn’t have any games lined up for the evening.

Sunday: Gateway to Hell!

On Sunday there was more hanging out with friends, then we played a Fudge/Fate hack in a setting inspired by Call of Cthulhu. GM Dennison Milenkaya did an excellent job of leading us through character creation, setting development, then through the investigation of a haunted house in New England.

We had a grand old time and the game only ended because most of us needed to go to bed. (We did get to a satisfying stopping point first.)

Monday: Live the Revolution!

Finally, today — my birthday — we played in GM Brian Williams’ DramaSystem game, where the group created an entire setting and cast from the sole premise that we were associated with a revolution that had just succeeded.

From this we spun a group of mismatched aliens working along a space elevator, and the push and pull of alliances as they struggled to secure their factions’ future.

After the game we left the convention for the last time and went to have some delicious Mediterranean food with friends for a late lunch.

Swag

As a coda, Edmund and I got each other birthday presents. We got some fantastic-looking games from local designers.

I got Edmund Relicblade, a miniatures game from Metal King Studio, along with The Seeker’s Handbook, a scenario book for the game.

He got me the board game Leaving Earth from Lumenaris, along with expansions.

When we finally got home we napped, then we called for pizza and watched a little television. I call it a weekend well spent.