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A New Old Campaign

For some time now some of my co-workers have been asking me to start up a new D&D campaign.  The main force behind this is actually a guy who was in my previous campaign, but there did seem to be a general desire around the office to play.  Seriously that’s one of the big advantages of working in video games — I have yet to work anywhere that didn’t have enough people interested in playing D&D to actually start a group.  This one was a bit surprising though.  Out of the 20 or so employees in the office, 9 players have asked to be part of the campaign.  I imagine one or two may start to flake out as it goes on, but our first session is scheduled for this Wednesday and as far as I know all 9 players will be there.

The campaign location will be the same world I’ve been running since my blog reset back in 2010.  My goal at the time was to start a campaign world that I could continually run stuff in that would eventually become deep and full of content simply by virtue of playing in it for so long.  I had heard stories of guys running the same world for decades, and I was jealous.  Well, it’s actually is working.  I have a huge hex map of the known part of the world and tons of adventure leads to start this new campaign out.  I’m pretty excited actually.

The group is an interesting melange of newbies and old hats.  As I said, one of the guys has been playing in my campaigns for years and I sort of think of him as the backbone of the group.  Or at least the cheerleader.  Certainly he’ll be the one to lead between-game conversations and keep the energy up, and frankly, I’m super grateful to have a player like that.  That kind of player can really make the difference between a game that trudges on and one that everyone is really excited to play every week.

Then I have at least one guy who has never played any version of D&D before.  This is a guy that will have trouble telling a d8 from a d10.  I like this kind of player just as much, because newbies have a great way of not letting themselves be bound by the rules.  They are far more likely to try something crazy that makes me scramble to make up rules on the spot and inevitably leads to a really awesome and memorable scene.  I do, however, have trouble answering him when he asks the simple question “What edition are we playing?”  I’m so steeped in the history now that I find it difficult to answer that question without going on for half an hour about the history of the game.

The funny thing is, I’m almost tempted to start calling what I play “OD&D”.  The fact is, I use the B/X books, but the majority of my house rules are focused on adding OD&D and AD&D 1e style stuff (race/class split, multi-classing, spell progression, etc.)  When I compare how I run the game to how others run OD&D, I’d say my game is more OD&D like than Basic D&D like.  And there’s something really nice about being able to answer the above question as simply “We play the original edition.  You know, the first one ever made.”  Most neophyte players understand numbers, and have a vague impression that there’s a 1st edition, 2nd edition, etc.  Trying to explain this weird non-numbered branch of the game that existed in the 80′s is a bit cumbersome.

However, the books I have at the table are undeniably the B/X books.  I have one set for my own use behind the screen, and one on the table for the players.  The fact is, I find the language and the organization of these books much more usable at the table than the LBBs.  While the spirit of what I play may be infused by ideas in the LBBs, I think the B/X books are just far more functional as reference material mid-session.

Anyway, I seem to have wandered pretty far off course here.  The point is, I have a new campaign starting up, using the same good old world and system I was using back in the halcyon days of 38.  I’m pretty darn excited, and I expect it will lead to a bunch more posting at this site again.

TotalCon Review

OK, it’s been a week, it’s high time I reflect on last TotalCon.  I think I can honestly say: best con ever.  And I really wasn’t expecting that.  If anything I really threw this con together last minute: I fell backwards into a room with a friend that needed a roommate, the games I ran were a collection of games I’ve run at other cons because I was too busy to write any new material, and by the time we arrived I had completely forgotten everything I had signed up to play.  I was even surprised when opening my envelope of tickets to discover I had pre-paid for a t-shirt.  Wow, it was like a nice little present from my past self.  Thanks Paul of the Past!

My games ran pretty well.  Actually, oddly my Thursday evening game for which I expected low turnout, and planned an adventure that was easy to scale, had 8 people show up.  Friday afternoon, on the other hand, I had to cancel because only 2 showed up.  The last game I ran on Saturday afternoon had an almost completely full table of 9 players.  The lesson is there’s really no good way to predict how many players you get, and you just have to be ready to roll with the punches.  Thankfully on Friday Tim was running a continuation of a game I played in a previous year, and he was gracious enough to let me join his over-full table.

The games I did run were good, and the games I played in were mostly good as well.  There were some that were great and some that dragged a bit, nothing unusual for a convention.  What really made this “the best con ever” for me though was the people.  First off, now that I’ve been going for 5 years running, I’m seeing a lot of familiar faces every year.  Often times I wouldn’t remember their names if it wasn’t printed on a badge hung from their neck, but fortunately it is, and it’s very easy to fall into the usual casual conversations.  However, in addition to a general sense of camaraderie, my roommate for the weekend made an important introduction to some other folks with the casual comment of “Huh, I’m surprised you guys haven’t met yet.”

It’s a funny connection – my TotalCon roommate is an old friend from college and happens to now live in the same town as I do.  He goes to TotalCon for the board games, I go for the RPGs, so besides the occasional meal together and chat in the evening, we don’t really see much of each other at the convention.  Lara, the first person he introduced me to,  was an ex-coworker.  It just happens that he was connected in these random ways with two people who are both RPG nuts and have been going to TotalCon for years.

And so Lara introduced me to her sister, and her sister’s husband, and they being gregarious people introduced me to a whole ton of other people I had never met before.  I was invited to join them at the hotel bar after the games Friday night, which was full of good humor and great conversation.  I went there again Saturday, at which point I found myself being led through the halls from one party to another.  Who knew there were after-hours parties at TotalCon?

Well, I would if I thought about it.  A couple years ago I posted about the insanely loud people in the next room.  Was this them?  Maybe.  I get the impression there are plenty of other late night parties at this thing.  I mentioned this anecdote of my loud neighbors at one of the parties, and got the very apropos response “well, if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em!”  And why not?  I already learned the lesson of “don’t play 8 AM games”.  In fact, I scheduled nothing earlier than 10 AM, and honestly, if I missed one of those it wouldn’t be the end of the world.  So I stayed up late, had a few too many beers, and generally just had an awesome time.

Being at a party full of gamers you don’t know is a very interesting experience too.  It’s like a normal party full of people you don’t know, only there’s this wonderful implicit topic of conversation.  I never felt awkward talking to a single person — they all had very interesting things to say, and were interested in what I had to say.  It was almost surreal.

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to going back, and it seems my new friends are now trying to recruit me into GMing games at Carnage on the Mountain, a convention in November up in VT.  It’s not taking very much arm twisting at all.

TotalCon Bound

TotalCon is very soon and I’m starting to get excited!  I didn’t mean to make such a big thing of it this year, but the trip seems to have run away with itself.  Originally I was just going for the weekend, but a friend contacted me about sharing a room and was going down Thursday night.  Now, “the weekend” already included Friday night in my head, and since I wasn’t going to GenCon this year I figured I was due a day off and could include the entire day Friday in my trip.  Then we started discussing when on Thursday we should leave.  I signed up to run a game Thursday night at 7, still late enough to have a full day of work, but then I started waffling about leaving a little early or even taking a half day, and finally just threw up my hands and took the whole day off.  Now my friend is talking about attending a 3:00 PM game on Thursday, and I’m noticing there’s a 1:00 PM game that sounds kind of cool…

To soothe my sense of self-indulgence I am including a slight corporate spin this year.  I’ve printed up a bunch of post cards for Road of Kings, and will be passing them out to anyone who will take one.  They have QR codes for the iTunes and Google Play URLs on them.  This was an idea I already had for PAX East this year, and figured what the heck, why not bring them to TotalCon?  I’m actually really curious to see what effect if any these will have on sales for us this weekend.  While PAX is more specifically for video games, and has a significantly larger attendance, TotalCon feels more like our actual target demographic.  I’m kind of excited actually to really be targeting “our people” so specifically and seeing how they react.

But mostly I’m going for the games.  I’m looking forward to playing with Tim Kask and Michael Curtis again.  I loved playing in their games last year.  I think I also signed up to play a game or two run by Travis Miller, who had the balls to run some shorter 2-hour games in the 10AM-12 slot.  That’s an idea I’ve batted around myself in the past, so I’m really psyched to see how that works without taking the gamble myself.  Also Travis is a great DM, so I’m sure those games will just be dead fun regardless.

Between this trip and chatter at the office about starting up a new regular campaign, this little old blog may just be seeing some new life in the coming weeks.  Here’s hoping.

Convention Concerns

OK, I’m back.  Road of Kings is out there and doing well, and I think I can breathe now and think about other things.  Time to get this blog back on track.

I want to talk about GenCon.  I was not able to go to GenCon last year due to moving, and again this year I won’t make it for various reasons.  That said, I do still keep an eye on things, and anyone reading this blog will know I’ve posted several times about the growth trend it’s been experiencing for the past several years.  Now, however, it’s getting a bit ridiculous.

Housing for GenCon sold out this year in less than a day.  According to the email:

To put this in timing perspective, last year, open rooms existed in the block through March 18. In 2013, housing took seven weeks to ultimately sell out. This year’s sellout of rooms with three or more consecutive nights happened in less than three hours with all other rooms selling out quickly thereafter.

Coincidentally, last Thursday’s Big Bang Theory featured a plot whereby the main characters try and fail to buy tickets to the San Diego ComicCon.  Four guys sit poised over laptops timing the moment tickets go on sale, then rapidly start refreshing their browsers trying to get into the system’s queue to buy tickets.  Yup, for the past several years, that sounds exactly like my experience with GenCon’s housing and event registration systems.

To be honest, I’m kind of scared by this trend.  Is it a bubble, and will it pop?  If not, will the experience of going to this convention worsen as it continues to bloat and become impossible to get into anything?  Will this flood of interest spill over into smaller local conventions, and if so what effect will that have?

In Big Bang, Sheldon decides to try and start his own competing convention.  I’m already there my friends, I’ve been running a small local convention for a close group of friends now in it’s 7th year — HelgaCon.  To be honest, these days I’m way more excited about HelgaCon than any of the other conventions I attend.  It combines the joy of playing games with the pleasure of seeing old friends I haven’t seen in a long time.  There’s no dramatic rush to get housing or sign up for events, and the best thing is, none of the games ever suck.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m looking forward next year to finally getting back to GenCon, assuming I can get in.  This year though, I’m sure I’ll still get plenty of good gaming in, and I’m kind of glad to not be spending two Saturday afternoons sitting at my desk hitting the refresh button over and over.

 

Road of Kings Released!

Hey everyone , I’m super excited to report that Road of Kings has officially been released on both iTunes and Google Play.  I won’t bother you with more blabbering on about how awesome our game is.  I’ll just leave with these nice two buttons:

app-store-badge google-play-badge

Countdown to Release

I’ve posted this everywhere else, why not my own blog?  Road of Kings has an official release date: January 18th.  Also, we’re officially supporting iPhone/iPad in addition to Android, which is very exciting, as we expected it to take much longer to support that platform.  Things went pretty smoothly though, thanks very much to the good folks over at libgdx and robovm.

Finally, here’s the new trailer we just released.  Enjoy!

Algebraic!

I’m working on isometric projections at the day job this morning.  I had the world position of an entity (wx, wy) and had to figure out the grid coordinates (gx, gy) of said entity on an isometric grid which had individual tiles tw wide and th high.  I also already have the formulas at hand for the inverse problem of converting from grid coordinates (gx, gy) to world coordinates (wx, wy).  I’m sure this math exists in a dozen places online, but actually spending a couple minutes doing out the work always helps if it doesn’t quite work right and you find yourself trying to figure out why in the debugger.  So here’s what is written on the notepad on my desk:

Known Formulas
wx = (gx – gy) * tw
wy = (gx + gy) * th

Solve for gx
wx = (gx – gy) * tw
(gx – gy) = wx / tw
gx = (wx / tw) + gy

Solve for gy
wy = (gx + gy) * th
gx + gy = wy / th
gy = (wy / th) – gx

Re-solve for gx excluding gy
gx = (wx / tw) + (wy / th) – gx
gx * 2 = (wx / tw) + (wy / th)
gx = ((wx / tw) + (wy / th)) / 2

Re-solve for gy excluding gx
gy = (wy / th) – (wx / tw) + gy
gy * 2 = (wy / th) – (wx / tw)
gy = ((wy / th) – (wx / tw)) / 2

I’m sure it marks me as a huge nerd, but I find it so satisfying when I get to do this kind of thing as part of my regular employment.  Sweet, sweet justification for all those math classes.

Road of Kings Update

In other news, progress on Road of Kings is going strong.  In fact, a large part of why I’ve missed updating my blog so much recently is due to my focus instead being on the social media marketing campaign we’ve started.  Granted, none of us are marketers and we don’t really know what we’re doing, but we’re trying very hard to have a much stronger visible presence on social media as we approach launch.  As such, I’ve been posting to Facebook and Twitter much more than my own blog.

If you’re not following us there, here’s what you’ve missed:

  • I’ve been posting a dramatized actual play report bit by bit on Twitter.  You can find that at #TaleOfSoryl.
  • We’ve posted a couple lore posts to our website, and promoted them on Facebook and Twitter.  The first was on the race of the Aesir, a strong group of sea-going raiders that you can join or fight against.  The second is on the staring location of the game, Delm Island.
  • Finally, I recently dropped several new screenshots of the game on our website’s front page.  Here’s a little teaser, follow the link for more:

Road of Kings

So, if you dig what we’re doing or just want to give us a little moral support, please consider liking us on Facebook or following us on Twitter.  I promise you’ll get much more frequent updates over either of those channels than waiting for me to remember to post to this blog about such stuff.

Kickstarter

I have a strange love/hate relationship with kickstarter.  I love the creativity of the projects it produces, many of which I know would never have come to light without this kind of funding.  On the other hand, I continue to wait for the day when a huge kickstarter based scam is revealed — it seems only a matter of time.

The first project I ever funded on kickstarter was a set of geomorph dice.  It seemed a neat idea, fairly niche, and exactly the sort of thing kickstarter is well suited for.  I have in the past tried to produce things that are economical on a larger scale, but for the individual are impossible.  I’m looking at things like music tapes/CDs, t-shirts, etc.  The price for one custom piece is usually astronomical compared to how cheap they can be bought by the gross.  So it seemed very natural to use kickstarter to distribute the cost across a large group, and it worked just as planned.  Within a few weeks I had some pretty cool dice, which I still haven’t actually used for a game to this day.  But still, it did give me some confidence in kickstarter.

Next I backed two much more ambitious projects — Ogre and Dwimmermount, in May and April of 2012 respectively.  Both became these crazy drawn out projects.   Ogre trundled on, and gave regular updates, in fact, I just got update #147.  The good news is though, a week ago I actually got the end product.  I had long forgotten about why I even backed this crazy thing, but now I have this monstrous board game in my closet.  Hopefully some day I’ll play it.  Despite being a slow process, Ogre seems to be a real example of kickstarter success.

Dwimmermount, on the other hand, continues to struggle on.  Mired by the dramatic disappearance of its creator and quazi-celebrity blogger James Maliszewski, it is under new control and I get regular updates often indicating some small progress.  Will this thing every come to light?  Maybe.  Will I demand a refund?  No.  I didn’t really sink that much money into this thing, and I’m willing to gamble on maybe it’s being released some day.  Also I have fond memories of James’ old blog, and to some degree feel like my investing in his nebulous project is perhaps in some way a karmic pay-off for all the enjoyment I got out of his previous unpaid efforts.

Since then, I’ve been a bit more hesitant in using kickstarter.  I did invest in my friend Bob’s project, but perhaps there’s less risk when you feel like you could go bang on the guy’s door and demand to know where your book is.  Or maybe that’s a mean-spirited way of saying that good friendships are based on trust.  And then there was this kind of interesting looking WWI board game, which was canned within days of my backing it.  That thing didn’t last long enough for me to get nervous about it, so maybe however risky it seemed is moot since no money ever changed hands.

So there I was, with pretty mixed feelings about Kickstarter, when the HeroQuest 25th Anniversay Edition was announced.  I admit I’m a huge fan-boy when it comes to this game.  I have the original, and the later Warhammer Quest, carefully stowed in my closet.  I’ve written supporting software for the latter.  I will still play it with anyone that wants to play any time.  So yeah, naturally I backed this thing as soon as I heard of it.

Perhaps I should have done a little more research.  You’ll notice the above link doesn’t go to kickstarter, here’s the actual kickstarter link.  Not much there but a scary message saying “Heroquest 25th Anniversary (Canceled) is the subject of an intellectual property dispute and is currently unavailable.”  I suppose that’s not surprising given how jealously GW is known to protect their IP, and I’ve worked on a GW licensed product, I know this all too well.  Oddly though, it appears it’s not GW that’s complaining, it’s some other company I’ve never heard of.

In fact, the producers of the new project (Gamezone Miniatures) are a company I’ve never heard of.  They looked like a pretty solid miniature manufacturer at first, though perhaps not a local one.  The update emails I got about the project regularly had grammatical and spelling mistakes, which I assume is because they’re not native English speakers, but still didn’t fill me with confidence.  They talk about how they’re not an American company and thus don’t need to worry about American copyright issues, and yet they also talk about the injustice of being hit with the C&D on Thanksgiving, a uniquely American holiday.  (OK, yes, I know the Canadians have it too, but they celebrate it in October.)  And their website, now that I look at it, has some unfortunate holes in it — the about us section is especially sparse.

Now it appears they are abandoning kickstarter.  The kickstarter project is officially cancelled, and I’m told I won’t be charged any money.  Meanwhile, Gamzone has said on their website that they will move to another venue for their crowd funding.  Will I follow them?  No, not this time.  I’ll watch the project and if it releases in such a way that I can buy a copy, I will do so.  But I’m not risking money up front on this one.  It just smells a little too fishy for me.  And let’s be honest, do I need yet another clone of a game I love and already own?  Probably not.

And where does that leave me with kickstarter?  Pretty gun shy to be honest.  Granted, I have yet to lose money on anything that’s obviously never going to happen.  Only in one case have I paid money and still not seen any return, and that project does still have every appearance of being actively worked on.  But I’m sure it’s only a matter of time.  I hope kickstarter is investing in a strong legal team, because I just can’t imagine that they won’t eventually be used as a vehicle for fraud, if they haven’t already.

Update:

A friend pointed me at this article, indicating that yes, it has happened that someone simply took the money and ran.  And the project was a board game no less:

http://valleywag.gawker.com/kickstarter-project-canceled-after-dude-spends-all-the-912176282

TotalCon Events

OK, after much delay I finally figured out my events for this year.  I wasn’t sure how much if any of Thursday I would take off this year, and honestly, I’m still kind of hedging my bets by only running a Thursday night game.  Still, to get there in time to check in and run my game I’ll have to leave at least a little early, and it’s a short jump from there to just saying screw it and taking the whole day off.  Anyway, here are the events I’m hoping to run.  I’ve never had any event I submitted not go through, but you never know.

Treasure Map to the Red Cave
Thursday, 7-11 PM
After months of collecting copper bounties on goblin ears your crew has finally gotten a break. You had to pool your cash to afford the map that ranger had, but he assured you it was nothing compared to the wealth it would reveal. And rangers don’t lie, right? Though, they’re usually not that drunk either… Moldvay edition Basic D&D rules, characters provided.

Tunnel Rats
Friday, 1-5 PM
Life in the clan comes with responsibilities. You have been selected you for an important mission: infiltrate the newly discovered dwarven halls underneath the warren, bring back any valuable artifacts, and find out what happened to the last pack sent to explore the area. Sounds dangerous, but what’s a loyal were-rat to do? Moldvay edition Basic D&D rules, characters provided.

Gloomwood Falls
Saturday, 1-5 PM
It has been many days since the prince and his men left on their quest to locate the tree of life. How were they to know war would break out while they were gone? You must find the prince, deliver the news, and bring him back if possible. Moldvay edition Basic D&D rules, characters provided.

I seem to have inadvertently created a theme this year: “following in the footsteps”.  The first one is actually written by Dyson Logos, and is the game I just ran for my coworkers a couple weeks ago.  It’s a nice wilderness trek game and should be a nice variation from the other two that are more dungeon oriented.  And it went over well with the coworkers, so I expect it to be fun.  It’s also the one I feel like I can run with the least number of people, and if things go as they have in past years I expect Thursday to be pretty under-attended.

The other two are both adventures I wrote. Tunnel Rats was originally a WFRPG game written for HelgaCon that I since adapted to D&D.  Changing skaven to were-rats is kind of fun, it drives the game slightly away from comedic and more into sinister, which I’m fine with.  The last one was originally an adventure I wrote for my home campaign, but then my players decided not to follow that thread and go do something completely different, and it wasn’t used on them until quite a while later.  In between I ran it as a convention game at GenCon 2012 and I think it went over really well.  And yes, this is the one that was strangely missing.  I still can’t find the digital file for this, though I did unearth a hard copy, which I promptly photocopied just so at least there would be two hard copies floating around.  I have no idea how I lost this file, the printed version was clearly made on computer originally.  Oh well.

I’m glad to finally have that all scheduled out now, and am really looking forward to the convention.  I suppose I ought to make sure I have characters prepared for these games, but it’s a long ways out still.  Maybe I’ll at least scan Gloomwood Falls to PDF so I don’t go losing it again.