Friday, May 26, 2017

Card Brain

Card game design has become my hobby. When I need a break from doing roleplaying design, I work on a card game. The pieces of the brain involved in card game design are different enough, for me, that I get to relax.
      I recently designed a fierce little two-player experience that has become my wife Lisa’s favorite game. You know a design is going well when you get trash-talked in the first playtest session. Lisa handily won the first game. As we were shuffling cards to play again, she patted my hand. “You played very well,” she said, meaning the opposite. 
      It looks like I’ll have news about the game’s publishing-arrival in a couple months. 

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Alarums & Excursions #500 arrives this Sunday!



[[art by Lee Moyer]]

Lee Gold is putting out the 500th monthly issue of the Alarums & Excursions roleplaying fanzine on May 21st.

A&E is an amateur press association. Each issue contains pages from two or three dozen contributors who discuss rpg systems, write-up sessions and entire campaigns, review newly acquired games, share game mechanics ideas, and comment on everyone else’s writing. Yes, it’s a lot like a play-by-mail version of an all-rpg-topics-considered online discussion folder. You can find the details and contribution guidelines here.

Back in high school, I found my clan when I followed a plug from Dave Hargrave in the Arduin Grimoire and sent Lee money to get hold of A&E #67. Over the years the clan has included most all the people who helped me enter the gaming industry and a powerful ring of lifelong friends. If this is the first you've of the fanzine, see A&E's Wikipedia page for a small slice of the past and present contributors.

I haven’t been contributing lately, but in honor of the anniversary, I arranged for a color cover from my comrade Lee Moyer. I’m also going to contribute a zine to the issue, including notes on some of the campaigns played in my 19-years-and-running Wednesday night gaming group.

Former A&E contributors who read this: Lee would love to hear from people with short updates, mentioning how you heard about A&E, when you started reading or contributing to it, and what you are up to now. In fact, Lee would love to hear more than that from former contributors; issue #500 isn’t necessarily a reunion but it could be. You can go the full-fledged contribution route at $1.75 a page, or you can send Lee your update by email at lee.gold@ca.rr.com and she’ll get it into issue #500 as a filler if it reaches her at by 5 pm Pacific Daylight Time on May 21st.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Home Art Gallery: Tyger Tyger

I loved this painting when I saw Heather Hudson working on it years ago. When Heather sold it as a print several years ago, I jumped at the chance. The print blazes to the left of my desk.

Heather and I met when she was illustrating M:tG cards and then painted some of the most fun cards in Shadowfist. Of course this painting is neither of those things. It's drawn from William Blake's poem The Tyger. If you haven't read it recently, follow the click trail.

I admit that I haven't spent much time with Blake's writing. Maybe I'll get reacquainted after Steve Dempsey unleashes his Gumshoe game on English mysticism, which I hope ends up with the name Fearful Symmetry.

You can find the prints and cards that Heather sells now here.


Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Gamefest in Denver, April 21-23

I'm spending this weekend wrapping Lions & Tigers & Owlbears: 13th Age Bestiary 2 up for layout.

The weekend after, April 21-23, I'm joining around nine other gaming guests and many many other gamers at Gamefest in Denver, the gaming wing of the bigger Star-Fest convention.

My schedule looks something like this:
  • Saturday 10:30am-12pm - Game Designer Panel Q&A - Hosted by Boardgame Corner of Dice Tower (Panel Room)
  • Saturday 1pm-5pm - 13th Age (RPG Room)
  • Saturday 6pm-10pm - 13th Age Glorantha (RPG Room)
  • Sunday 10am-2pm - 13th Age Glorantha (RPG Room)

Convention games are fun for introducing people to experiences they've never been eaten by before. I'll be drafting some of those experiences from Bestiary 2, even for the 13th Age in Glorantha games, since Bestiary 2 includes an appendix about translating many of its monsters to Glorantha.

Thinking ahead and setting up my gaming travel kit, I'm finally retiring my original copy of 13th Age. Not from my desk, it still has some miles left for domestic duty, like a soccer player who is retiring from the national team but will keep on suiting up for the home league. Here's its current condition:


I've been  referring to this copy of 13th Age as 'the broken book' for years, ever since I was running an event at a Gamerati convention. Eric Fell and Derek Guder and some other fun people were in the game, but it was a 7 year-old boy walking by with his dad who nailed me. He looked at the game table and said, "Why is that book broken?"

"Because it's well-loved," I finally get to respond.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Saturday Night at MoPOP: Hall of Fame 20th anniversary party & panel

This Saturday, March 4th, a mile or so from the festivities at the Emerald City ComicCon, MoPOP, the museum formerly known as EMP, is  celebrating the 20th anniversary of its Science Fiction & Fantasy Hall of Fame with a short panel discussion, costumes, tabletop gaming on the second floor, a Star Trek discussion, and a dance party.

Dungeons & Dragons is one of the inductees this year, and I'll be on the 7:40 Q&A panel alongside Robyn Miller, one of the creators of MYST, and two other special guests. I'll have ample time to talk gaming after the panel, and admission to the event includes the ability to check out other exhibits, including the Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic exhibit I helped design.

And if you haven't seen the new Star Trek exhibit, it's great! Even friends who don't particularly like Star Trek loved it. Saturday night there's an 8:30 event, Trek Talk: Exploring Star Trek's 50-year Impact on Pop Culture, Fandom, and Geekery  that sounds like a great intro to the new gallery and includes Wende Doohan, one of the other Q&A panelists, the wife of James Doohan, who played Scotty.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Wearing the Cape: the book & the Kickstarter


My favorite superhero novels are in the Wearing the Cape series by Marion G. Harmon. The series is humane, well-written, and one of the rare superhero treatments of time travel and its consequences that builds (and foreshadows) an interesting story instead of stumbling over itself. The plots are worthwhile, the characterization is excellent, and though I sometimes disagree with the author's politics and politically-informed worldbuilding, those spots make for interesting thinking.

Harmon has always talked about his interest in roleplaying, and he's now in the last four days of a successful Kickstarter bringing his Wearing the Cape world to the FATE system. So far I haven't been a FATE player. I'm finally going to give the system a serious spin via Wearing the Cape.

One of my favorite things about the Wearing the Cape books is how well their fight scenes express the personalities of the characters. Jeff Grubb wrote about this in the Kobold Press book, The Kobold Guide to Combat. Jeff's essay is called "Why we Fight: Combat as Communication." When I read Jeff's essay, the first thing I thought of were the three books of the WtC series that had been released at that point. I'm happy to say that later books in the series have lived up to the early books' promise on this score. I suspect the RPG system can handle this well, so I'm looking forward to the release of the rulebook, which should happen via PDF a week or two after the Kickstarter ends. Yeah, this rulebook is finished.

Even if you're not interested in the Kickstarter, look for the Wearing the Cape books for great examples of combat scenes that communicate who the characters are, and why we should care.

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Dragonmeet & other Meetings

I'm in London for Dragonmeet alongside the Pelgrane crew!

Last year on the train into London from Heathrow, before Dragonmeet, I was reading Lavie Tidhar's The Violent Century, glancing out of the train at delapidated warehouses as the novel's superbeings negotiated the London fog.

Saturday afternoon at last year's Dragonmeet, the man wanting to talk about roleplaying games over the table at the Pelgrane booth turned out to be Lavie Tidhar! He said that RPGs weren't something he had really tried, though the friend beside him seemed to be more familiar with the genre. I gave Lavie a copy of 13th Age, and when Ken Hite came back to the booth Ken got him a copy of The Dracula Dossier.

This year, on the train ride into London, I was reading Catherynne M. Valente's Six-Gun Snow White, a beautiful strange little book. I'm pretty sure there's no chance of seeing Catherynne M. Valente at this convention, but perhaps something similarly magical will reveal itself.

Looking forward to seeing friends from this Eastern side of the pond in a few days.