Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Emerald City Comic Con

Apparently I will be at Emerald City Comic Con this weekend running 13th Age demos.

I haven't run an RPG demo at a convention in quite a long while - I've been running board game demos for a good long while.  But RPG demos are an entirely different animal.

There are a number of good points here:

1) It's a game I like.  A lot. I'm currently in a game that I'm very much enjoying.

2) I'm mostly familiar with it - obviously, I'll need to go over it and refresh myself on a few of the rules. But I'm mostly ready to go.

3) There is a scenario already set up and ready-to-go.  It's on Pelgrane's website. And I've already read through it a few times.  It's actually pretty basic - but it highlights the strengths of the game.

4) I'm already "in shape" with my GM skills.  I'm not the best GM - and I have no illusions about that - but I do enjoy it.

5) I enjoy introducing people to things I like.  Conventions are an excellent opportunity in which to do that.

So what do I dread?

1) RPG demos differ from board game demos in one significant way: they depend to a much greater extent on the people who are involved.  While one difficult person can make a board game demo difficult, it doesn't often color the perception of the game.  But one difficult person can utterly destroy an RPG demo.

2) I really really don't like crowds. GenCon is pretty difficult for me, believe it or not. Until after the first demo or two - I just need to remember that these are my people.  Because they really are. Even at a comic convention, the attendees are my people.  We are all geeks - and I'll admit to being a low-level comic book geek.

So we'll see how it shakes out.

I'll let you know, probably next week.

The following week, I'll have a character from my wife.

That should give me plenty of time to get a post or two together, despite the upcoming chaos at work.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Chaotic March + More D&D Reprints

Short post this week - my situation at work is suddenly in flux, as we have someone who is leaving the company.  This means that I may be working 10+ hours per day.

This means less time to write and/or think about games and game-related things.

So until further notice, please be aware that my posting schedule may become erratic.  I'm going to try to keep my normal schedule up as much as possible, mind you, but there will be slips and possibly missed days.

With that said, have you seen Wizards of the Coast's latest plan to make huge piles of money?

This one - if my Google Plus Circles are any indication - will do the trick.

It's a reprint of the original white box D&D. In a deluxe wooden box. With four additional supplements and new cover art.

The text lists seven books.  The picture shows eight.  The picture also shows dice which aren't listed in the contents list.  So there is some question about what will be in there.

Either way, it's $150.


So now they've reprinted the 1E AD&D PHB GMG and MM - all of which gave a cut of money to the Gygax Memorial Fund.

Then they reprinted the 3.5 D&D PHB GMG and MM.  Then the 1E Unearthed Arcana.  And now this.  None of these are called out as giving money to the Gygax Memorial Fund - they're just cash grabs. Rather blatant cash grabs, at that.

It makes sense - the Old School Renaissance is putting out a ton of 1E clones and seems to be self-sustaining. So there is a market for that 1E product.  And Pathfinder is big money right now, too, so the 3.5 reprints might land them a share of that cash cow.

And I've heard from several places that Hasbro is worried about the profitability of D&D.  It is, after all, the best-known and most-recognized brand name in the entire role-playing game industry.  By a long ways.  It should be much more profitable than it is.

These reprints?  Think about how cheap it is for WotC to produce them.  You spend a couple of hundred dollars hiring an artist for new covers.  Then there is production costs (which are not small, but are still much lower than cover price). These prices are essentially the same for any book - so why are these cheaper to produce?

Because you don't need product development.  You don't need to pay any writers or editors or R&D teams.  You just need someone to scan the old stuff into a computer (because it predates desktop publishing), and check it for scanning errors.

So even though the quality of the product is higher than most of their stuff, these are probably less expensive to produce than "current" products - and they sell for a higher price.

It's a good move from a business standpoint.

I'm not saying I think it's a bad thing - I'll probably end up grabbing one of those boxes. And the Unearthed Arcana book at some point.

I just really wish that WotC were continuing to support the Gygax Memorial Fund.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Game of the Year: The Early Contenders

We're now half-way to GenCon. Already.

As I've done for the last few years, I'm going to award Gamethyme's Game Of The Year while I'm at the show.

As we're half-way there, I figured I'd better list the candidates and highlight a few frontrunners.

Today, I'm going to do it in reverse order of times played.

Zombicide - I played this at a friend's house.  I honestly wasn't too upset at having missed the Kickstarter until I played it.  We purchased it less than a week later, but I've still only logged one play.

Shave a Sheep - it'a long shot at best.  My nephews really enjoyed this, but it's a bit too random for me to enjoy playing a lot of this one.

Panic on Wall Street - This game will play with smaller crowds, but it really starts to shine a bit once the crowd gets closer to the eleven it'll handle.  It reminds me of Pit, because there aren't "turns" - once the game is on, it's on, with all players simultaneously trying to negotiate with all other players.

Tsuro of the Seas - Another Kickstarted game that I didn't Kickstart.  I will eventually pick this one up - it's different enough from basic Tsuro that I see the value in owning it.

River Dragons - on further checking, it's not really eligible this year, because I played Dragon Delta in 2007.  But it really should be.  The new edition is amazing.

Mythic Battles - I got my contributor copy of this one at GenCon.  I really like it, and it makes me wish I played more two-player games these days.  The only problem I have with the game is that when you play at the 100 point level, each player looks at their options and chooses the one or two units not to use.  It's not the most difficult of choices.  There is an expansion coming this year which will alleviate most of the problem. And add some new cool things to the game.

Kemet - I like this game.  A lot.  Enough that I was willing to write an article for Game Trade Magazine for it.  It's the only wargame I know of where turtling is almost never a good idea.  The closest you should get is coiling like a snake - getting ready to strike. And the components are exceptional.

Fame Us - Another fun filler game.  I'll admit that, had I been spending money, I wouldn't have bought into the pink box with a glittery cover. But with the right group, this is a total riot.  The hidden teams aspect of the game keeps  the voting fair and unbiased.  This one is surprisingly entertaining.  Note: The box pictured on Amazon doesn't match my box, so they may have changed it.

Seasons - A big GenCon release.  It was actually several months before I got my copy, which I immediately played a bunch of.  It's seeing less play, now, but it's still in the car.  And there is an expansion coming.  I really like this game - in large part because I'm not playing Magic: the Gathering anymore and this scratches that itch without a $3k investment necessary on my part.

Gentlemen Thieves - A hidden role shift-alliances game.  The more I play this one, the more I appreciate it. Once the game is explained (which takes about five minutes), the game is on.  Usually the players have been able to figure out who is who by the end, but not always.  This game needs more love, because it's really good.

City of Horror - This one continues to be a favorite.  I think I raved about it in October or November.

Mutant Meeples - This is the only game on the list I Kickstarted.  And it was delayed and delayed and delayed.  And, now that it's here, I don't mind the wait.  It's a ton of fun, and we've been playing it a ton.  In fact, this is my most-played game since GenCon.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013


I did a few posts a few years back about system, and how it matters.  This weekend, I found myself facing that directly.

You see, I'm running a Cthulhutech game for some friends of mine. And I'm really not using the system right. The game, for those of you who don't know, provides players with a small pool of points that they can spend to add dice to their rolls.  That's not at all unusual in modern RPGs. What is unusual is how many points players get - they get ten points per session.

Not per adventure, not per campaign - per session.

This means that I should, if I'm running the system as it's designed to be run, be forcing die rolls pretty regularly.  And a few of them should be high-stakes and important to encourage players to spend more points.

As it is, in the game I'm running, players are averaging only one to two rolls per session.  In theory, they could blow five points per roll and not sweat it.  In practice, however, they've been hesitant to spend their points, because they are afraid of what I have coming.

Now I'm not going to say, "Clearly I'm running the game wrong."  Because I'm having fun, and the players seem to be having fun.  But it makes me wonder if, perhaps, there is a system which might better fit how I'm running the game.

Some of my friends and I had a brief discussion on Google Plus, because I was already struggling a bit - I have one player who wants a psychological game of personal horror, and one friend who wants action and adventure.

Someone suggested that Gumshoe might be a good system for me.  All I'd have to do is mash up Trail of Cthulhu and Ashen Stars. Which, honestly, is easier than it sounds.  And my initial reaction was to recoil.  I don't know that I could run Gumshoe, I thought, That's a tough game! You need to map out all kinds of clues and ... and ...

At game that evening, one of the players mentioned that the mashup did sound good, and I stammers, "But I can't run Gumshoe!"

"But Eric," he scolded me, "You've never run Gumshoe!"

And it's true.  I haven't.  I've only played Gumshoe. Only a couple of times, too, with ... mixed results.

So I'm re-reading my Gumshoe books.  And a few pages into Esoterrorists, I realized: This is pretty much how I've been running the game already.  "Do you have Skill X?  Okay, you see ... "

I have one parapsychic player and one sorcerer character, so I'd need to figure out how to adapt that ... but I could run this as a Gumshoe game without even changing the character sheets.  I think that may be the biggest secret to Gumshoe: Every game is Gumshoe once you stop rolling the dice.

I think I'm going to keep the game as-is for now.  As a proto-Gumshoe game with occasional combat.  But I may take a good look at Mutant City Blues to see if maybe a tweak to the skills list might be appropriate.