Sunday, March 19, 2017

The Volcano Kings of Antarctica

The ancient Earth is drowning in the frozen cosmic night, its once staid orbit radically precessed by a long forgotten interplanetary mischance. The last refuge of mankind is a twilight continent grasping at feeble rays from a mortally wounded sun. All else of the old globe is blasted and entombed in shadow and ice, haunted by mad monsters, remnants of interstellar infestations. But upon the auster pole, enough warmth still falls from the erratically reeling sun to let water flow, and upon this sparse foothold the Volcano Kings have built their stalwart realms. Masters of primordial geo-sorcerous power, the Kings were able to draw up energy from the utter depths to warm their lands, build their cities and drive back the freezing monstrosities. Of course, their rule is not harmonious, as the Kings each hold their realm jealously and crave to add all the others to their own. Barbarian tribes prowl the frontier, calling up inhuman spirits to pursue war amongst themselves and boiling forth to raid the volcano-cities. Within those lava-illuminated city walls it is no more tranquil, as the noble-minded, the ambitious and the merely greedy (and more than few of the outright mad) all maneuver against each other, hoping to seize advantage in this last bastion of humanity.  And from the outermost dark the cold monsters still come, with ever growing boldness savaging and slaughtering, and plotting with what some see as a distressingly developing intelligence.

Volcano Castle by JamesHillGallery, Devinat Art
I was skimming through GORE last night, a open source iteration of "Basic Role Playing," wondering what use the rules could be put towards, when the above campaign context took fast form in my mind. I can see myself putting together a 40 to 60 page text out of this with a slimmed-down version of GORE as the rules base, a fun little sword & sorcery setting in the "dying earth" milieu.

The title "Volcano Kings of Antarctica" has actually been sitting around in my idea bin for a while.

My initial version was more pulpy, set in the 1920's in a jungle cavern-world beneath the polar continent, populated by Lemurians (the titular Volcano Kings) sealed off from the outside world since prehistoric times and with giant insects filling all the ecological niches. The starting point would be a contemporary university expedition literally dropped into this setting, only to discover the harsh-but-stable society of the ancients in an uproar due to a WWI German submarine and its crew who had been similarly drop-punted into the troglodyte lands half-a-decade or so earlier. The Germans, led by their sinister scarred and be-monocled Captain have used their technical expertise to ally with the cruelest Volcano King, pushing for war so they can seize the secrets of the miraculous volcano-science from all the other Volcano Kings and then use it to return to the outside world ... and conquer it all! 

I had some notion of a subtext of tension between innovation/discovery used for tribalism versus the general betterment of humanity, but mainly it was a blood-and-spectacle Pellucidar-pastiche allowing for a variety of characters in a sandbox-style campaign (I'd never specify how many people are in the initial expedition, and set up the initial entrance point as the "base town"). I was looking towards a hack of OD&D/S&W White Box to run it.

Honestly, I still think the pulp version of VKoA is more unique, but I didn't manifest the enthusiasm to develop it like I have for the S&S version. I suspect largely because settings feel more limiting the closer they get to chronicled history, even if they're off  in a Lost World. I just feel an obligation to make a token effort to acknowledge historical facts ("this character is a veteran of the Ottoman campaign ... what battles would he have likely experienced, what languages would he have been exposed to?") and that's, well, effort rather than fun. Likewise, with the German engineering as a central theme, I'd feel the obligation to make my descriptions of geothermal plants and steel mills at least passably realistic, something I don't have to worry about when I get to focus more on mood and invention.

Oh, my opinion on GORE? Mixed at best. The Chaosium house system has never been my first choice (I tried hard to get into Elric! back in the 90's but it didn't take, and my experiences with Call of Cthulhu and Runequest have always been frustrating). And GORE itself is terribly organized; for instance, rules necessary for character creation and combat are spread throughout the text, despite both those subjects having chapters dedicated to them. So as a game unto itself, I wouldn't recommend it. However, as an open source repository it has utility, since all that data can be easily remixed and expanded to suit one's purposes, and BRP is a thoroughly tested role play system. I can remove out all the modern-day rules, aggressively reorganize the remaining parts then add on new setting-appropriate systems and Volcano Kings of Antarctica would be a game anyone with any sort of Chaosium experience would recognize. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

A Couple Ideas for Alternate uses of XP

Still musing about Experience Points since my last post, here's a couple ideas I've had for supplemental ways to use them in Swords & Wizardry and other OSR games.

Magic Item Creation

This is actually a misapprehension turned around into a functioning mechanic. Back in the old days, though my rulebooks were BECMI D&D, I still picked up a lot of AD&D supplements because I was eager for material and there was so much more of the AD&D stuff available. Mostly I ignored the minor stat differences, but when enigmas like "non-weapon proficiences" and "3/2" attacks with no precedent in BECMI got in the way, I just made a wild guess. This included the XP values listed for magic items, which for some reason I surmised were costs players had to pay for wielding the items ("You're taking the sword +1? Alright Jerry, subtract 400 XP from your sheet") rather than a reward for finding it amongst monetary treasure (I suspect due to my notion that AD&D was "advanced" because it harshly penalized characters for every advantage).

Actually, this makes sense if applied to magic-users creating those magic items. In addition to spending time and gold, they need to give up a portion of their essence to give the item power, represented by the XP cost. I'd just use the XP values from AD&D (yes I did finally get those rulebooks) maybe doubled or tripled. Also, I'd limit PC magic-users to the creation of one durable magic item per class level, to avoid them spamming out bushels of +1 daggers rather than ever leveling up. They can still create as many potions and scrolls as they can afford, with no XP cost.

Raising Attributes

 I'll have more to say about Earthdawn's sharply eccentric advancement system and how it compares to old-school D&D, but for now I'd like to swipe it's XP-for-attribute-raises mechanic. The unchanging nature of attributes in old-school D&D occasionally perturbs me, so it's an easy fix to let players impede their long-term "skill" gains via levels for the short-term benefits of attributes. Eyeballing it, I'd rule that, once every class level, a character can raise an attribute of their choice one point for the cost of 500 xp per point of the new attribute rating; going from Strength 8 to Strength 9 would thus set the character back 4,500 XP. I like that this gives the player a way out of being stuck with a attribute forever on the cusp of a modifier threshold, though I imagine it opens up an exploit if the GM is offering XP bonuses for high attributes (I don't). 

And now to prevent this post from just being a wall of text, here's a picture of a stolid ranger by Caitlyn Kurilich, who looks like they've advanced a few levels:

Saturday, March 4, 2017

Comparing XP Awards

The Experience Point economy is, for me, one of the foundational aspects of Old School play. I'm far more likely to tinker with how XP is generated, consumed and flows than I am, say, the combat or magic systems. I'd even profess that most of the traditional parts of Old School design can be dropped, but as long as the XP system remains it still "counts" as old-school gaming. Well, that and reaction rolls, random encounters and morale ... basically, the real meat of play are those core systems generating interesting situations; combat is just a detail of negotiating the results.

But that's all to be hashed over more thoroughly another time. For now, I've been comparing formula for Swords & Wizardry, my preferred retro-clone (specifically White Box). Look, I even made charts!

The official "Rules as Written" S&W XP scale cumulatively gives more XP per hit die from foes with greater total hit dice. For example, an Orc's lone hit die is worth 15 XP, while each of a Warg's 4 HD is worth 30 XP, for a total of 120. Though it has a broad pattern it's an arbitrary scale without formula, simply bumping up the amount of XP gained per HD at inconsistent points by inconsistent amounts (it even dips down once at the 16 HD spot). It's a perfectly adequate emulation of the traditional scales from BXD&D and AD&D, that shrewdly cuts the fiddly additional "special ability bonus" and "XP per hit point" parts of those original systems (The RaW system simply counts special abilities as extra HD). But I find its arbitrariness cumbersome, slowing down bookkeeping as I have to look up each foe's XP value individually.

A common alternate method, derived from the original 1974 D&D rules, is to just give a flat 100 XP per HD of defeated foe. It requires no chart look-up, and many GM's like it because it gives low-level characters a comparatively big boost while throttling back the advancement of higher level characters. I dislike it because I think it makes minor monsters so valuable (a mere score of orcs is worth more than most dragons on the RaW scale) that it'll encourage characters to stick to hunting unchallenging rabble and minions after they should be powerful enough to take on bigger targets.

The third method on the chart, "HD² x 10," is a formula I came up with when running Stars Without Number, a game which has a very broad approach to XP rewards and no specific scale for foes defeated, something I found a bit too loose. I've since come to like it enough to port it over into other OSR games because it produces awards passingly close to the original scales (well ... it evens out in the long run) and since it's a consistent formula I don't need a chart to calculate awards. The only quibble (a minor one, but it might annoy some) is the numbers generated can scan as somewhat inelegant, such 810 XP for a 9 HD monster, or 1,690 for a 13 HD beast.

Monday, August 8, 2016

Boiling Down Traveller: Really, Really Simple Worlds

Microlite20 is pretty amazing. Back during the heyday of D&D's 3rd edition, Robin V. Stacey accepted the permissions granted by the Open Game License to flense the D20 System Reference Document, pitilessly cutting away every bit of adornment until all that was left was the absolute naked minimum needed to play a game that was still recognizably D20-style D&D. M20 is cross-compatible with existing D20 resources, but is playable on it's own. Just two pages long in it's base form, even when expanded with plenty of added resources it's still under twenty pages. Scores of people took to M20, running it, expanding it and writing there own microlite games in turn.

So ... how about a Microlite take on Traveller, the classic game of science fiction adventure in the far future? I got this notion when looking through my venerable copy of The Traveller Book and realizing that despite the myriad rules and formula filling it's pages, there's explicitly a core list of clearly defined activities play is built around:

  • Character Generation
  • Personal Combat
  • Starship Design
  • Starship Operations
  • Starship Combat
  • Interstellar Trade
  • World Generation
  • World Exploration
  • Encounters (with subtypes of Social, Animal and Starship)
  • Psionics
Taking the original Traveller text as inspiration (without aiming to emulate it precisely) I can imagine writing a game where each of those activities is covered adequately by just one page of efficient guidelines. Budget in a couple extra pages for miscellaneous subjects like equipment, and that's a nice even total of a dozen pages, well within the succinct range of microlite systems. It won't be as comprehensive as full Traveller, but it'll support a recognizably Traveller-like play experience. Also, unlike Microlite20, cross-compatibility isn't a strong design goal, since Traveller doesn't have the same focus of meticulous character-builds, magic-item interactions and monster-abilities.

To give an idea what my take on this would look like, I doodled out the following terse system for generating worlds. Reviewing the UWP-generating process of original Traveller, I've tightened the focus down to the essentials needed to define a world, and tried to combine several different values into one (for instance, pushing atmosphere, size and hydrosphere all together into "Environment"):
  • A sector is a 6x6 grid. Check each coordinate on the grid by throwing a die. An a result of 5 or 6, note a world at that location.
  • For each world, throw a die and subtract 1 to get a value of 0-5* for each of the following qualities: Development, Stability, Environment and Resources. The higher the result, the better.
  • Development describes how heavily populated and technologically advanced the world is. 0 indicates no native population or industry, 5 indicates a thriving world with a sprawling starport and cutting edge technology.
  • Stability describes the presence of strife and social development. 0 indicates ongoing total warfare, 5 indicates a peaceful and equitable society.
  • Environment describes how hospitable the planetary surface is. 0 indicates a world that's too hostile even to survive in a vacc suit, 5 indicates a hospitable Earth-equivalent biosphere.
  • Resources describe how much surplus raw materials or valuable finished goods this world produces for the interstellar market. 0 indicates no surplus and a likely strong need for imports, 5 indicates a vast surplus and ample buyer opportunities.
  • Check each world for unusual circumstances by throwing a die. On a result of 5 or 6, throw another die, apply the result from this list and interpret what it means: 1 Aliens, 2 Artifacts, 3 Imperial Base, 4 Interdicted, 5 Guild Base, 6 Anomaly.
*The four qualities come out as 0-5 because I've some notion of using them as die modifiers for other systems.

I'm not promising I'll see this through, I'm notorious for conceiving projects that don't go anywhere, but it's still a compelling idea I'd like brought to fruition.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Old Days, New Days

Here's a comment I just banged out for a io9 article asking how a field has changed over the years. I'm posting it here as well because Kinja never sponsors my comments; maybe more eyes'll reach it on my home turf.

In my early days of hobbyist tabletop gaming, 25 years ago, there was a established structure to the whole industry that supported it. Most hobby games were produced by full-time companies with a few dozen employees (Avalon Hill, TSR, GDW, White Wolf) with both full-time offices and contracted free-lancers. Designs were produced in-house, finished product was distributed through local game stores or mail-order catalogs. The only source of information on games and their designers was through physical access to them (meeting/playing at a convention) or information filtered through a handful of monthly professional print magazines (Dragon, White Dwarf), usually house organs for the company that published them. All of which enforced a top-to-bottom flow of influence. And the industry was still reacting (arguably over-reacting) to the twin precedents of Dungeons & Dragons’ sudden early-80’s faddish popularity and the Satanic Panic that followed. Between that and the delay in audience/designer communication, design trends were slow to advance, innovation was seen as risky and product tended to ne self editted to keep it family-friendly. There was also a lower fan-directed level of the hobby, of fanzines, APA’s, amateur press magazines and small-press game publishers, more willing to experiment, but also severely restricted by the high costs of formatting and printing, and the difficulty of getting access to the distribution network.
Then the Internet happened. A lot of grognards thought it would kill the hobby, but instead it's made it thrive better than it ever did before.

Those venerable old companies mentioned above are now out-of-business, collapsed under the weight of their own high-volume/low-variety business models, and there are no more print magazines. In their place are hundreds of small  imprints, individual designers and artists supporting a constant flow of day-to-day communication through blogs and various social media (game designers have particularly taken to G+). PDF stores and desktop publishing have almost entirely eliminated production costs so anyone with the time can publish a game, and even those who want to offer dead-tree product can make use of Print-on-Demand services and Kickstarter to mitigate costs. 3D printers are on the way to doing the same for physical components. In the Role-Playing field, several Open Source systems have given venues for aspiring writers to market content (heck, a whole new genre, OSR, sprung from one Open Game License). With so many dedicated gamers finally able to talk to each other directly, deep critical examination of game design has expanded and innovative designs have taken off (Fate, Burning Wheel, sooo many boardgames). 

On the surface, hobbyist tabletop gaming is superficially the same as it was decades ago, but the structure supporting and producing it has changed entirely. For much the better, I think.

Monday, April 13, 2015

The Orson Welles School of Game-Mastering

Go watch This Video. It 'll make you run better role-playing games.

It's a documentary short, "F for Fake (1973) - How to Structure a Video Essay." I'm ... not entirely sure what the creator means by the term "video essay." Like most creations discussing the process of creation, unspoken assumptions and undefined terms clutter much of the landscape.

"Its just a typical variation of the Obtuse November Horse theme ... y'know, like anyone would recognize." 

Regardless of its intention, there's two great ideas in this essay with great applications to tabletop role-playing. (granted, more for a narrative style of play; the ideas may fit poorly with a game in a more old-school sandbox style.)

First is "Therefore/But." In any sort of chronicle built from scenes, its an easy mistake to just string those scenes along in an "...and then..." chain, where the order of progression doesn't matter and nothing really builds. Walking your character through town encountering a series of NPC's, experiencing their quirks and pumping them for rumors then trundling on to the next can feel like a trudge through a daily errand list, no matter how colorful those NPC's are. But if every scene has a consequence, a "Therefore ..." or a "But ..." at the end that changes how the character will interact with the next scene, it turns the events into a building drama. Put another way, "Therefore" equals Opportunity, "But" equals Consequence. You approach the Bailiff, offer him a drink, therefore (opportunity) he considers you an ally in his coming bid for re-election. You cross the neighborhood to talk to a pickpocket you know, end up saving him from some drunk mercenaries, but (consequence) get marked for later vengeance by the mercenaries.  Tie some strings between the Opportunities and Consequences of few scenes like that, you get conflicts to resolve and a narrative direction to follow, rather than just a series of incidents.

Consequence or Opportunity? Depends whether or not you're in the truck.

Second is "Meanwhile, Back at the Ranch..." The resolution of a story is almost always enhanced by the anticipation of that resolution, so you want to tease out the resolution a bit to maximize that anticipation. How do you tease it out? By jumping to another story just as the first one hits a milepost, and then teasing out the resolution of the second story by switching back to the first story, or even yet another story. Keep that up, and the audience gets to enjoy a lot of anticipation. In a role-playing context, this means you don't introduce the Evil Mastermind, set up a fight against the Evil Mastermind then defeat the Evil Mastermind all in one go. Much better to have some other evolving situation (daresay, something spawned by a Consequence or Opportunity) press into the gaps between those big beats. The Evil Mastermind appears ... but the Mayor wants to cut the Superhero Team's funding! The Evil Mastermind launches his great attack ... therefore the Mayor says superheroes are a menace! In this particular example, you're also trading between different flavors of challenge, the direct physical menace of the Evil Mastermind and the more mysterious machinations of the Mayor, contrasting them against each other. This is particularly salient to role-playing because, thanks to the objective-directed war-gaming origins of the medium, staying focused on the current crisis through to its bitter end is precisely how most scenarios were traditionally structured. Of course, advice intended for authorship isn't going to translate directly to the communal narrative-building of role-playing, but its a fruitful idea to start from.

I'm pretty sure this is all "Scriptwriting 101" and probably some version of it has already appeared in a dozen smart and hip gaming texts already, but this video lays out these great ideas directly and concisely.

This post felt incomplete without at least one more picture, so here's a context-defying psychedelic witch.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Dreamation 2015: The Post-Con Summation

Note, I just posted this on G+, but for the handful of folks who follow me here and not there, here's a re-post.

First, much thanks to the folks I shared a room with: Mikael Andersson, Ephraim Gregor, Jeff Lees and the travelling Swedes, Angelika and Cristoffer Rusthoi. You were all cool people I was happy to spend time with and made what could have been a cramped situation instead pleasantly snug. Thanks especially for putting up with the hacking and sneezing from the cold I carried with me.

Thursday: I arrived just in time to catch the evening demo of All Quiet on the Martian Front in the Miniatures room, run by Joseph Johnson. I liked the WWI-era vehicle models and I’m a fanatic for anything inspired by War of the Worlds, but unfortunately I found actual game play terribly unbalanced; the single opposing Martian tripod barely suffered a dent as it speedily demolished my American tank squadron, plus a second squadron of reinforcements I was granted to try to make the game more satisfying. That’s definitely in the tradition of Well’s original story, but it’s not very interesting to play out in turn-by-turn inevitability.

Fun detail: in the fiction those tanks are all steam-powered, because gasoline engines and martian heat rays turned out to be too volatile a mix. 

Afterwards I jumped into a tournament of Pitchcar, a dexterity game where wooden pucks are competitively ricocheted by strategic finger-flicks around the twists, turns chutes and ramps of a three-dimensional track. In the three-lap race I finished very nearly last but enjoyed it all the same. Then, after a spot of video pinball, I called it a night.

Not pictured: scrambling under the table to find your car when you inevitably fling it off the track.

Friday: Up early to play Lasers & Feelings run by Alden Strock, a rare chance to experience one of John Harper’s super-elegant RPG designs as a player. I was “7-Krax-7”, the Android Pilot all about Laser-based solutions with an obsession for breaking speed records. Other players were the sexy Riker-esque scientist (played by sexy Riker-esque game designer Tim Rodriguez), the Savvy Engineer who achieved acting captain status via rock-paper-scissors, the Dangerous Doctor with a galaxy-sized moral blind spot and the somewhat reformed aspiring despot Alien Scientist. Our crew romanced giant crustaceans, fought pirates, broke the letter of Consortium law in the name of the spirit (and convenience of the moment), flew so fast we arrived before we departed and declared a war then surrendered in record time.

In the afternoon slot, I ran Stars Without Number for four players using my new “Sweetwater Shores” scenario. The PC’s landed their battered ship of dubious recent history at an anti-matter refinery / black market hub for desperately needed repairs and soon ran afoul of the various factions manifest in the station. Gang wars were started, psychic artifacts unearthed and the decadent ruling class ejected into deep space. A grand and satisfying time was had by all.

Of the two covers available, I prefer this one.

In the evening, I ran into the delightful Natalia Granger and played a couple of her fun demos of the card game Spellcaster. Then it was back down to the miniatures room to try Warmachine for the first time, presented by Kirk Brunstetter. A much more satisfying experience than the last mini game (my Cygnar warband maneuvered around the opposing Khador team until finally seizing an opening to take out their warcaster) followed by some interesting conversation about how the minis hobby is starting to change and diversify much like RPG’s did a few years ago.

Saturday: Up early yet again to jump into Questlandia presented by Evan Rowland. I and four other players (Evan chose to run this potentially GM-less session as a director rather than playing himself) brewed up a Kingdom set on a far-off planet largely ignorant of its ancient colonial origins. Technological remnants were viewed as magic, priestly orders maintained them but only those with noble blood (laced with hereditary nanotech) could actually operate the devices. But, the blood had degraded and now was spreading as a STD through the commoners and sending society out of balance. The personal drama between a traditionalist monk, the monk’s sickly heiress student trapped in a bio-suit, the heiress’s estranged courtesan, that courtesan’s relic-hunting brother and a amoral scientist (played by the same guy who was a amoral scientist in the Lasers & Feelings game) turned out to be the trigger that precipitated the collapse of the kingdom. Our legacies would be a bittersweet rise of survivor nations and teachings twisted by the centuries. I enjoyed the game and the world-building it spawned; I like any game where big sweeping setting construction is part of the fun (in fact I always feel a little deflated when such games step back down to the mere character-scale perspective). Still I think there are parts in Questlandia open to refinement. Some of the processes could be more elegant; there’s a lot of tracking bits. And I felt strain from maintaining a vast Kingdom-wide perspective while still playing a single mortal-scale character. I found myself wishing for Microscope’s approach of making up quick character’s relevant to the current situation, rather than having to keep justifying why my Bio-suited heiress kept pinging from one pivotal encounter after another. Still, I’ll happily play Questlandia in its current form again.

In the afternoon, I was back in the miniatures room again. I didn’t originally plan to keep sliding up to the battle tables, but there were always slots available at the minis games and I found the parlor-like atmosphere and craftsman’s attitude (as opposed to role-playing’s more Auteur-minded tone) refreshing. This time it was Bolt Action, WWII tank battles presented by Joseph Johnson. It was a fast-playing game, letting I and two other players march through four simple scenarios in under 90 minutes. Zipping my Allied Shermans down the streets of a North African village, trying to roll out of cover to blast German Tigers before they did the same to me was quite satisfying; it was also fun just playing with the large-scale, highly detailed tank models.

In the early evening, I decided to try out the Pathfinder Adventure Card Game for the first time (unfortunately, the program doesn’t tell me who was running it). I’d heard it described as a condensed role-play experience, and was curious to sample its appropriateness for some folks I know looking for an introduction to RPG’s. It didn’t really meet that expectation, it turned out to be mainly a cooperative scenario-beater with a lot of group tactics, resource swapping and some light deck-building and no discernable role-playing as I recognize the term. I still enjoyed the experience though, and got to play with 
Asphesteros Felleye, which I don’t get to do often enough.

In the late evening I was scheduled to run Blood & Bullets, a succinct Wild West RPG derived from Swords & Wizardry created by Simon Washbourne. I was really looking forward to this; I submitted the game largely on a whim, to bring exposure to a less well-known OSR game, but unexpectedly found a resonance with the frontier trappings and genre tropes while prepping. I was inspired to put some extra effort into prep, getting a reprinted 1890’s Montgomery Ward catalog to present to the players for gear ideas, and prepared a stack of home-bound rule booklets to give away. So I was crushed when, of the six sign-ups I had, only one actually showed. Of the five absentees, only one had the decency to cross their name off the sheet ahead of time (Kelly Vanda, who I sincerely thank for her conscientiousness). The other four manure-breathed bastards simply flaked out, leaving me to sit in growing agitation until finally at half-past start time with a still nearly empty table I called off the game. Barring they all died in the same car accident on the way to the con, I think what these four folks did is inexcusable. Not only does it waste my efforts, it cost the time of the one person who showed up expecting a table full of fellow players.

Advice: do not buy this Lulu print edition, go to the author's website and download the PDF, which has updates missing from the one pictured above:

Fortunately, Melissa Cohen happened along to soothe my rage and convince me the human race deserved to survive another day. At her suggestion, I tried out the LARP Top Secret Admirer presented by +Daniel Eison and had a pretty good time. Between that and Melissa’s boundless positive energy I got over my grump and ended the night in good spirits. (Melissa’s description of the game is far more thorough than I could manage; go read what she says about it in her Dreamation recap on G+.)

Sorry, its a LARP. They often don't have cover images. So here's some spy ponies on a date.

Sunday: Finally I got to sleep in a bit before checking out, sorting out luggage and forgoing morning gaming to make the rounds of the dealers and watch the drama of the auction. I even brought a stack of old games to sell, and was happily surprised to see all but one find a buyer.

For the last slot of the con, I ran Stars Without Number again. I’ve taken to regularly offering something for the final Sunday slot, because there always seems to be folks grateful for something outside the central Friday/Saturday rush, or who couldn’t make it for the rest of the con. I had four players, again in the “Sweetwater Shores” scenario, one of whom signed up because he enjoyed it so much when I ran SWN at the last con. Another player was a young lady entirely new to the OSR approach, who took to it with delighted enthusiasm. This was the fifth time I’ve run this scenario, and the first time I’ve seen a party deal with the challenges of Sweetwater station by agitating its economy. Heh.

This is the other cover. I like it less.

And after that, it was time to go home and finally start getting over my miserable cold.

Meeting & Greeting: I socialized plenty, but it came mostly as short conversations here and there, dozens of times over with one or two folks. Eating on the go and from my own bonter bag in the room, I didn’t have much call to go out for meals so missed the big meal-time convocations so many other’s have gushed about. Perhaps I’ll try to make those connections next con. I still got to see plenty of friends and familiar faces, and even got to chat a bit with John Stavropoulos after too long a gap since I last did that.

Swag Acquired: The one thing I planned to buy at Dreamation, the new edition of Monster of the Week was well and thoroughly sold out early, so I didn’t get to take that home. However, I still ended up with quite a stack of swag. On Thursday, someone put out a couple big boxes of free texts, from which I grabbed Sengoku, OSRIC and the old ICE Middle Earth Role-Playing corebook and two supplements, Creatures of Middle-Earth and Angus McBride’s Characters of Middle Earth. I’ve always had a mild curiosity for MERP and Sengoku, so its nice to finally check them out. And as an OSR-ian, I was required to pick up OSRIC eventually, so its good to have that finally sorted. At the auction, I picked up three boardgames, Musketeers, Frankenstein’s Children and Sewer Pirats all for a total of seven bucks. Don’t know a thing about them, but they’re all worth a try at that price. Saturday night, I collected my prize points, rediscovering that boardgames and mini games, especially ones with any sort of tournament structure, produce a lot more points than RPG sessions. I had enough points to snag Honor & Intrigue, a swashbuckling implementation of the Barbarians of Lemuria system, which I’ve been wanting to pick up for a while.  Finally on Sunday I picked up Gaean Reach, Robin Laws’ recent space adventure revenge game that combines elements of his Gumshoe and Skullduggery systems. It caught my eye because its succinct (108 pages at digest size) and I’m a long-time Jack Vance fan, on whose work the game is based. I also sprung for Everything’s Better With Monkeys, an anthology by C.J. Henderson, because … well, because I didn’t do that enough while that gentleman was still around.

So, that was my 2015 Dreamation. Now to start getting ready for Maelstrom.