Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Games I've Got at GenCon & Scheduled Panels

I'll be seeing some of you at GenCon in the next few days!

Mostly I'll be at the Pelgrane booth, booth #423, talking with people about the news for what's coming for 13th Age, and the wonderful Drakkenhall book that's out at this show:

Here are some panels I'll be involved in for Pelgrane or with Pelgranistas. . . .

Friday August 5th, 12:00-1:00 p.m. [Hyatt Studio 1] Ken & Robin Talk About Stuff. Robin has to stay in Toronto, so Gareth Ryder-Hanrahan and I are joining Ken to talk about roleplaying, conspiracies, writing, and conspiracies about roleplaying writing.

Saturday August 6th, 4:00-5:30 p.m. [The Stadium: Meeting Room 8] Swords, Spies, & Shoggoths: The Pelgrane Press Panel. There are a lot of fun projects surfacing soon that I didn't know about until the pre-con planning session, so I know panel attendees will be presently surprised.

Sunday, August 7, 11:00 a.m.-12 noon. [Hyatt Studio 1] 13th Age Monster Workshop. Attend the panel and make suggestions. Or heckle. Our rogues gallery of 13th Age designers and developers and a publisher will spin the suggestions into a publishable baddie. I slated this madness for Sunday since it tends to leave us punch drunk.

Other fun.... All con long, Dara Studios at Booth 2400 will be running demos of the Storybook Brawl board game I wrote about last week. I'll be there when I can, or you can ask me about the game when you find me nearer Pelgrane.

And Wiz-Kids at booth 1715 will have copies of Three-Dragon Ante: Giants War to show off, but I don't believe they'll have enough copies to have them on sale. It was close, so that means the game should be out in retail soon.

Thursday, July 28, 2022

Storybook Brawling onto a Tabletop

The art above is called Flights by Moonlight. It’s the first storybook image we got from our amazing artist, Ekaterina Chesalova, for the Storybook Brawl boardgame I’ve been working on the past year with designers from my company, Fire Opal Media, and other designers from Good Luck Games.

One of the coolest things about designing games is that sometimes the games you play turn into games you’re working on. In 2021, I was playing a lot of Storybook Brawl, the digital auto-battler-style game of twisted fairy tales on Steam. I knew some of the designers. I loved the game. My business partner Jay Schneider and I got in touch and we ended up signing on to design a board game version of Storybook Brawl!

If you’ve played the digital version, you’re probably aware that most of the mechanics that make the digital version tick don’t translate into a board game. The truth is that it can be liberating when mechanics are so untranslatable. We had to evoke the feel of the digital game, and the fun of its brawls, in a board and card game environment that would stay fun for players of many ages instead of gradually eliminating people until only one winner was left.

I love this type of challenge!

Sometimes my early designs are reasonably close to the final design. This was not one of those times. Jay and the rest of the development team did so much work and redesign, and along the way we realized that the way to set up the brawls at the heart of the game was with a storybook that would double as a scenario guide!

The Flights by Moonlight picture above? That’s one of the early scenes from Act II: Home Realms, showing the moment Mrs. Claus and Pan’s Shadow meet after their stories have been shuffled together. The storybook’s opposite page gives each player a choice between three Plot Twists before that round’s brawl: Workshopping (just some gold to buy better cards); From Up Here, Everybody Else Looks Tiny (the right to buy cards from your shop for a tiny price this round); and Moonlit Reconnaissance (banishing a random card and acquiring two new cards).

Yes, it’s a deckbuilding game of sorts. And each brawl leads to another story later on in the storybook, until the grand finale. I’m thrilled with the game and in love with writing storybooks for it! It’s one of those games I’m going to struggle to keep a copy of because my wife Lisa is gonna be giving it away as a gift. (Seriously: I’ve had to borrow copies of Three-Dragon Ante and Epic Spell Wars from friends because all of our copies had been gifted!)

The Storybook Brawl board game is going to be published by Dara Studios. It will go on Kickstarter later this fall. Come by booth 2400 at GenCon next week to see a prototype, check out the storybook, and to play a demo for between 2 and 4 players.

I’ll usually be at the Pelgrane booth, #423, and though I’m mostly doing 13th Age things there, I’ll be happy to talk about Storybook Brawl and will probably be at booth 2400 running/playing games now and then.

I’ll post in the next couple days about the Pelgrane-and-other-things I’ll be up to at GenCon.

Friday, May 13, 2022

Games for Charity

Here's a guest post from Jonathan Tweet . . . .

This month I raised $50 for my late wife’s favorite charity, Planned Parenthood, by shipping my old Talislanta books to a fan of the game in exchange for his donation. There are a lot of old games in my basement that need to find good homes before I move out of here, and I figure I can raise money for charity while I’m at it. In addition to regular piles of game books and cards, there are a bunch of oddball games and personal effects, such as my campaign notes from the hacked version of D&D that I ran in high school. Some stuff I can easily offload onto a local game store or something, but lots of items I would rather place personally.

Talislanta was a peach of a project for me. Revising the rules for Wizards’ 3rd edition was a fun project, and the standalone adventure Scent of the Beast was filled with promise for an upcoming “adventure path” that never materialized. It was sad to see it go but gratifying to pass it along to an old fan of the setting. --Jonathan Tweet

Monday, April 4, 2022

Three-Dragon Ante: Giants War

Ante again! Some time around July 2022, WizKids is releasing my sequel to Three-Dragon Ante: Legendary Edition, a 100+ card set called Three-Dragon Ante: Giants War.

This new set of blue-backed cards introduces 4 colors of good giants, 4 colors of evil giants, 3 colors of dragons, a full pantheon of giant god cards, and rules for fighting for a giants’ stake and a dragons’ stake each gambit. (Hint: you only score your flight for the stakes you are strongest in, so feints and strategy-shifts abound.)

The backstory of the game is based on the Thousand-Year War between the giants and the dragons, back when the world was young. The history of the war appears on page 19 of Volo’s Guide to Monsters. Short version: the giants lost their world-spanning empire. The game might be a bit of a sore spot for the giants. . . or maybe they like the reminder that they were once in charge, and could be in the future?

I’ll have more updates later. For now, let’s go through the three cards shown in this preview image!

Frost Giant: One of the four colors of evil dragons, of course. Relishes competition, when its power triggers you collect gold from anyone else competing for the same stakes. If you’re playing first in the gambit, or slipping in to try and take a stake without any competition, you’re not giving the Frost Giant the fight it wants, so it won’t earn you any extra gold.

Surtur: Yes, the set comes with the full pantheon of giant gods! The giant gods, dragon gods, legendary giants, legendary dragons and legendary mortals get shuffled into a single Legendary deck at the start of the game, with six cards from that deck shuffled in with the normal deck of giants and dragons. Many cards’ powers let you draw a card from the new Legendary deck, so there’s a decent chance that Surtur might be competing with other gods. He’s worth at least +2, a total of 12 for the Giants, if his power triggers, and when your opponents are taking a gambit seriously he could be worth more.

Copper Dragon: A new Copper Dragon card! The original Copper Dragon is still great for games that don’t use giants and the Legendary deck. But the original Copper Dragon power, that adds a random card to your flight and triggers its power, is not much fun when you’re carefully managing which stakes, dragons or giants, you’re fighting for. So the new version plays off the Copper’s gregarious nature—your weakest opponent gets to draw a card, and then you draw a card from the Legendary deck. This type of sympathy for the weak isn’t the type of thing the new giants cards go in for, but you’re fighting for the dragon stakes and maybe setting yourself up with a power card.

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Drakkenhall: City of (Surprisingly Amusing) Monsters

cover by Roena I. Rosenberger

You wouldn't know it from the seriously beautiful cover, but Drakkenhall: City of Monsters is a seriously funny book!

You *might* know it from the back-cover text, because having multiple chapters that made me laugh out loud translated into the easiest copy-writing job I've ever had. It goes like this:

Monsters are people too!

The Emperor expected a city of monsters to destroy itself, but instead the Blue and her people have created a city that’s wickedly unique: Drakkenhall!

Make a splash in the social season alongside a fashionista ooze!

Spend the night at a dybbuk inn at the docks, where possession is a perk!

Dodge the amputation golems until you can get your healing spells back!

Explore the Rubblehoods, the neighborhoods that have been left as monstrously energetic ruins!

Shop (OK, OK, plunder) the Goblin Market and admire (fight) its pet otyughs!

Prove yourself as the most dangerous monster of all–an Adventurer worthy of joining the S.M.A.S.H. Society!

Drakkenhall: City of Monsters is a 124-page 13th Age sourcebook for GMs running adventurer and champion-tier campaigns. Contents include Ailor the Draco-Druid, kaiju shark mooks, 60 other monsters, the secret history of the Dragon’s Orc statue, a couple gnarly ideas for replacing missing limbs, urban planning notes (city of monsters-style), and light rules and guidelines for sea travel in the Dragon Empire that Gareth managed to slip into the chapter on the Docks!


Giving each of the book's authors a full chapter of their own worked better than I could have hoped. Drakkenhall is already on pre-order in the Pelgrane store and we're in the last few days of the layout process, so the final PDF will be part of that pre-order soon. Pick it up and attune your dance card for the Houses of Decadence!

Friday, March 11, 2022

Kor, the Ograkshasa Monk

What does rebellion look like when dad is an ogre mage and mom is a rakshasa?

In Kor’s case, rebellion looks like obtaining magic that makes you look mostly human and studying to be a monk in a monastery run by the Dragon Emperor. Of course, many of Kor’s forms don’t look a lot like styles practiced by Imperial monks. There are limits to how straight you can be when the Black Dragon is an old family friend.

Yeah, Jonathan says this is the most-me character ever.

I used the beastblooded modifiers and the bestial fury ability from Book of Ages (page 77). When Kor (it’s kinda Rak backwards, natch) goes beasty-fury, the spell making him look human drops temporarily and you get a glimpse of the tigrish-ogre beneath. I didn’t realize I could have sung “ograkshasa ograkshasa ogra ogra ograksasa” until now.

I’m using the past tense because we were right there, deep in the Stone Thief (thanks in large part to the activities of Kor’s older sister Kyla), when Paul Hughes gifted me with the certificate that crafted Kor at HeroForge. I decided to keep Kor’s hands facing human-style, instead of trying to show him full-beast. And then my wonderful talented friend Brittany Broyles (@blondeofmystery) painted Kor. Now we know how to make sure campaigns don’t get played again: make a HeroForge mini of your character.

Still, hope remains. If not back inside the Stone Thief, some other game. Maybe I’ll get really old school and blow a character created for one campaign into another version of the Dragon Empire, like a leaf in the wind. A leaf with fangs!

(a much better photo from Brittany, with the other two minis she painted for me accompanying Kor)

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

The Wave & Wave

Yeah, it’s two great books with almost the same title.

The Wave: In Pursuit of the Rogues, Freaks, and Giants of the Ocean, by Susan Casey, is from the genre that mixes compelling science with the author’s personal experiences. The science concerns the physics of giant waves and interviews with the people who study them, along with an investigation of previous understandings of giant waves, and how we are still underestimating the frequency and effect of rogue waves of 80’ or more. The science chapters are fascinating.

The personal-experience chapters eventually focus on time spent with champion surfer, inventor, and adventurer Laird Hamilton. The adventures on the waves are the closest I’ve come to reading a true-life Doc Savage story. If Hamilton isn’t bigger than life, we’re given an excellent picture of just how big life can be. For a more detailed review, this one is good.

Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala, has an entirely different purpose and emotional register. It's not how big life can be, it's how big a disaster can be and how that hits one person. The cover design matches the book’s impact.

The first chapters are a mind-wrenching account of being caught in the 2004 tsunami in Indonesia. It’s unlike anything else I’ve read. The rest of the book follows a tortured path through survivor’s guilt and the mechanisms of a return to life. The copy I read didn't have a subtitle, but now it's subtitled "A Memoir of Life after the Tsunami."

I found myself reading a number of disaster stories during the pandemic. A disaster this huge, that hit a world away from almost everyone I know, is one of those things I try to remember as part of maintaining perspective. I associated Wave with another book I loved, Annie Dillard's For the Time Being. Dillard's book I can reread, Deraniyagala's, probably not.