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An International Incident (gaming recap)

So we finally get to have another session of our homegrown Marvel Heroic Roleplaying campaign.  In our last episode, the heroes (the Ultimate Posse) discover a supervillain organization called the Zodiac that has been responsible for insuring that villains that are captured are released, provided they are "franchisees" of the Zodiac for a measly 15-20% of their gains.  Members of the Posse adopt supervillain identities in an attempt to become franchise members and discover more about the Zodiac's organization, only to discover  that the Ferret, posing as the superninja Deathstriker, has actually been inducted into the Zodiac proper as Libra!

In this episode, the Posse ponder how to take down the Zodiac.  There are several suggestions, including teaming up with the mystical supervillain team the Pact in order to even the odds.  But Control, the director of the superspy organization UNTIL, wants the Posse to learn more about the Zodiac.  There's just one problem: two o…

More looking ahead to 2014

Distractions, great and small

One of the factors gumming up the gaming works in Q42013 has been, in addition to the work and family I mentioned last time, some unexpected problems that came up.  For one thing, I got hurt to the point of needing medical attention.  Twice.  First, I sprained the MCL in my right leg in an accident in mid-October, which was a painful injury that had me limping around for several weeks with a knee brace.  Then, just as the MCL was feeling better, I had a second injury.  I severely sprained my left ankle in an accident, resulting in an avulsion fracture in the ankle (that's when the tendon is pulled so hard it rips off the tip of the bone where it is attached) and broke my fibula clean through.  I've been in a cast for four weeks and will hopefully be moved to a walking boot today, God willing.

The other thing is more personal, and I've learned the hard way that a public blog is not really the place to air private matters. There has been a lot o…

Looking ahead to 2014

A Long, Hard Season
I had an uncomfortable moment when I looked at my calendar and realized that the last time I played my MHR campaign was in mid-October.  There's been one gathering of my group since then, but we were very short-handed and tried out the FATE character/campaign creation rules instead.
The reason is simple: work, family, and the holidays.  And since my job is deeply connected to the observance of Christmas, it doesn't get any easier.  We schedule our games consistently every other week.  In November I had work on the 1st, gamed on the 15th, and then the 29th was Thanksgiving weekend.
In December, the 13th is when my son is celebrating his birthday (by catching the new Hobbit movie), and the 27th is two days after Christmas.  I'll be free because I will likely not be traveling, but I suspect I'll be the only one.  That means December will be a complete bust.
Going Forward
One of the biggest problems I have is that I will get into the bad habit of screwin…

I saw the new Thor movie and am ready to do supers again

Let me say, first off, that I think that aside from the somewhat-disconnected Hulk movie(s), I think that Thor is the weakest character in the Avengers franchise (the new casting for the Hulk in the Avengers movie pretty much resurrected that character from the "worst" slot).  My son loves Thor, and loves both the movies, but Hemsworth is so leaden as the lead character that it is no wonder they gave Hiddleston as much rope as he could handle.

I get that Hemsworth looks like Thor should look, and that Thor the comic book character is pretty wooden on his own.  But setting him aside, Natalie Portman continues to such the wind out of every scene she's in to the point where you really are rooting for Thor to hook up with Sif instead.  Stellan Skarsgard is played strictly for slapstick laughs.  Kat Dennings is also a comic relief reprisal, but I think she should have been cast as Hel rather than jokey-sidekick to the sidekick.  And Christopher Eccleston has the double ignomi…

First thoughts about Edge of Empire

I've actually been on a bit of a RPG-buying kick lately, a sure sign that I'm either a bit depressed or just suffering from the wandering foot of my hobby tendencies. Edge of Empire is the latest iteration of a Star Wars RPG, this one by Fantasy Flight Games.

I own every Star Wars RPG out there, from the first edition by West End Games to FFG's new stop-a-high-caliber-bullet tome, and I may like this one the least, which is saying a lot since I'm including Wizards of the Coast's d20 version in there.  Why?  I'll tell you.

It's not, as it turns out, because of their dice that are game-specific and damned expensive ($18 for a set), although that does cheese me off.  It's even not the way that they reduce all social interaction to a die roll, with little in the way of in-character roleplaying affecting the outcome.

No, it's the way they chose to settle into the Star Wars universe.  In EoE, the PC's are all smugglers, soldiers, bounty hunters, etc.…

First thoughts about Fate

You know that something is amiss when even my wife can figure out the problem with an RPG...


I bought the Fate Core System book (Evil Hat Productions) not too before heading off to EOW and have been reading it intently every since.  It is not a complicated game per se, just one that take a lot of things that are relatively unspoken or hand-waved in RPG's and builds the rules around them.

I don't want to get too deep into the rules in this post, but rather just look at the pivotal one: Aspects.  Aspects are akin to the Distinctions in Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.  Actually given the timeline, MHR ripped off FUDGE/Fate.  But since I knew MHR first, I have to work from what I know.  In MHR, if you do something that dovetails with one of your Distinctions, you can either get an additional d8 (if it is positive) or a d4 and a Plot Point if it suggests a negative occurrence.  So for example if you use "Highly confident" to do something smoothly because, well, you think you c…

What does November look like?

If you read my miniatures blog (and some day I will integrate the two) you can see that my miniatures and wargaming hobby pursuits tanked horribly in October.  On the other hand, I had three solid days of RPG goodness and squeezed in a home game session that went very well in the pumpkin month.

Now all that gets flipped in November.  I already had to cancel the gaming session on November 1, and will likely cancel the one on November 29, the day after Thanksgiving.  That leaves one session for the home game for November, and after one session the previous month it is feeling pretty neglected.  Compounding this is the fact that there will likely be only one session in December, since I don't think we'll be gaming on the 27th of December.

Having things taper off during the holiday months isn't anything new, nor I suspect is unique to me and my gaming group.  It is a good time to recharge the batteries creatively and come back with some big story ideas to unfold for the rest o…

Home Campaign Interlude

I haven't bothered writing up the third session, my own, mostly because I felt it was the weakest of the three.  But last night I finally pulled the trigger on one of the bigger meta-plots of my Marvel Heroic Roleplaying campaign.

It began with four members of the Ultimate Posse--Samkhara, Abrasax, Dr. Mind, and novice hero Patchwork--chasing down five villains who had stolen some radioactive isotopes.  The villains were Gale Force, Crowdsource, Feral, Arrowhead, and Headstrong.  Arrowhead and Headstrong had appeared near the beginning of the campaign as a duo, while the other three had previously worked with Empyrean.

It turned out to be a tighter fight than anyone expected.  Arrowhead and Crowdsource could hit the PC's with complications, then have their opponents get hammered by the other heroes.  Eventually the Posse turned the tide, although Samkhara had been badly injured by Crowdsource.

A few days later, the heroes are coming back from patrol when they discover their he…

End of the World 2013, Day Two

Continuing my coverage of the 2013 End of the World gaming weekend...

The second scenario also took place in the ongoing campaign's “Traveller” universe, but in a very different way. In this game, the king of a Tech 1 world of medieval culture is brought into the Empire of Man. The king arranges to have eight of his elderly and loyal royal knights retrofitted as cyborgs, a process taking about 18 months. When the knights return, having been restored to youthful vigor, they discover the king dead, his son imprisoned, and usurper aspiring to the throne. This, obviously, can not stand.
One of the big factors in the system that is used at EOW is first that it is heavily geared towards shooting combat (mostly firearms) rather than melee combat, and second that the game is so lethal.  You can die in one hit.  Not only that but if you are shot, you're likely to die or at least be no longer able to fight.  That's the "realism" of the system, and it has a big factor …

End of the World 2013, Day One

For those who have been reading this blog for less than a year, or just don't bother following the minutiae of my life, a little background. Five or six years ago I joined this gaming group that has been in existence for the last 25 years or so. You read that right—25 years of consistent gaming. Now, some caveats about the group. They only gather four times a year. Three of those times they spend the entire day (traditionally a Saturday) gaming. The fourth time, they spend three days gaming with each day being a different adventure led by a different GM. One of those sessions is the “campaign” session, the quarterly game that's run the other times of the year. The other two are one-shots. The first three-day event was held in November of 1989, on the date that the little-known RPG Morrow Project said would be the beginning of World War Three. As a result, the gaming mini-convention would be known as “End of the World,” or EOW.
A little more background. These guys h…

Gift Boxes I Made

So, in addition to everything else, I get on a craft kick every now and then.  The benefit to doing craft stuff is that you can usually make it fairly cheap, have fun, and then give it away so it isn't taking up room in your house.

With Halloween coming up, I decided to make some craft boxes in which I could later put candy and give to my office staff. Here's a pic.


They are basically cheap paper mache' boxes from the hobby store painted black, then the lids have Halloween scrapbook paper decoupaged onto the top.  Easy peasy.

Playing 13th Age and other things

Last Friday my original gaming group was supposed to gather for another session of Marvel Heroic Roleplaying but it turned out only two players could make it, and since it was last minute I was only able to bring in one person from Group Two.

With only three, we decided to not bother with the pre-arranged MHR adventure but instead to try out 13th Age, using the pre-written mini-adventure in the back of the rulebook.  Their impression of the game is about the same as mine: it's a fine lightweight version of 4th Edition, with some clever narrative/story elements in PC creation to help get a handle on the background of your character.

At the end, the question was "how does it compare with other similar games?"  I was surprised to hear that while everybody thought the "icon relationships" and "one unique thing" was pretty cool, the lighter rules didn't necessarily impress people.  The players liked having a greater variety of options available when it…

PC vs. PC conflict and the Magic War begins

We're back with Group 1 for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, although since most of Group 1 showed up last weekend, it really just feels like we are picking it up from there...

Scene One
We begin with the various PC's going about their business, attending their regular jobs or lounging about the HQ.  Argent, the NPC hero whose secret identity was publicly revealed in the last session, continues to rail against Randall Parker, the TV personality who aired footage of Argent  transforming in a back alley.
Returning from a pilates class, Union Galactic witnesses an explosion at the hospital where the three victims of the Project: Sunburst nuclear facility meltdown are being treated.  He rushes over and finds the three are now embued with superhuman abilities.  The former head of the facility is now calling himself Helios, and claims to be sent to return humanity to worshiping the Sun.  With him are Radium and Ray, and the three beat down Union Galactic into unconsciousness.
Thankfully, …

Ultimate Posse Unlimited

Two Fridays ago we tried out the first of the "two parties/one gaming universe" model by having a session for "Group 2."  Unfortunately only two members of Group 2 were able to make it, so five members of Group 1 showed up to round out the anemic team.  Seven is way too many for Marvel Heroic Roleplaying, but I hit what will likely be the first of many snags with the 2P/1GU model.  I had posted on Facebook that I had space in Friday's game, and every single person in Group 1 immediately piped up to say they could play.  My son graciously stepped aside, knowing that I would now owe him a favor, but I didn't want to ask any of the other players to do the same.  I may have to go with a first come, first served policy or some kind of "credit" system where if a player has missed a session in his own game he gets first crack at the other team.

Anyways, the two new members of the Ultimate Posse are Ghost Raven, my daughter's somewhat lighter-hearted …

Large modular dungeon tiles

I made five 4" by 4" dungeon tiles, which is 80 square inches, almost twice my usual batch of tiles.  When added to what I've done already, this is how big a single room I can make:


14 by 14 squares, with four squares to spare.  That's a pretty big room (70 feet to a side).  If I wanted to mix it up, I could build something like this:


I'm probably going to take a little break from this project.  It has turned out well, but until I'm closer to doing a fantasy game I'm going to focus on the games I'm actually doing.
Speaking of which, it's game night tonight...

But what about MY story?

I picked up 13th Age last week and have been perusing it since then.  I had played the game at KantCon and had been reading a bit about it on the internet.  When the game finally showed up at my FLGS, I picked up a copy and got a free pdf version for good measure.

For those who don't know, 13th Age is a pared-down version of 4th Edition Dungeons & Dragons.  Fewer class-related powers, fewer feats, no grid-based tactical movement.  There's a few odd additions like a d6 die whose number goes up each turn of combat in an encounter, triggering various effects in the PC's and the monsters to accelerate the action.

I've mentioned this before, but there are two aspects of PC creation that bear a bit more detail.  The first is the pre-generated epic-level NPC's who make up the power factions of the world: some good, some bad, some neither.  They are deliberately vague (e.g. the high priestess of the temple of light, the ruler of all the orcs in the land, etc.) so you c…

Something better than Frugality

I'm cross-blog posting about this both here and over at my other blog, The Army Collector.

Right now, I'm reading the book The International Bank of Bob: Connecting Our Worlds One $25 Kiva Loan at a Time  It's about a travel writer who gets involved with the microfinancing organization Kiva (which also happened to win a Nobel Peace Prize) after seeing the gross disparity of wealth and poverty around the world.  With $25 loans to individuals who are seeking to improve their lives and build local industry, it got me thinking about the fact that I can drop $60 on a copy of the new Star Wars RPG without difficulty, and what that means.

So here's what I decided to do.  I took the remainder of my hobby budget for this month and gathered my two children around the computer.  They each got to pick a single $25 loan to make to an individual.  Kiva loans have a very high rate of repayment, so I will actually get the money back within the next year or so.  After talking a bit wit…

Third round of dungeon tiles

I continue to plug along on this project, in hopes of one day having a pretty flexible dungeon layout.  Here's the third round of tiles and what I can make with them.




Epilogue on Friday's Game

After the Marvel Heroic Roleplaying session, we had a little chat about where we wanted to go with the campaign, which rules we wanted to use, and the possibility of a second team.  As it turns out I have four players teed up for the second team: another couple, a fellow from my church, and my daughter, who is young but the same age my son was when he began.

Interestingly enough, despite several of the players being at least familiar, if not having played Mutants & Masterminds, the group was happier with Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.  I had thought, given how much they had played D&D 4E, they would want a "crunchier" game, but the group seemed to agree that the more fluid, imagination-driven rules of MHR.  I suppose it makes sense--there were a couple of moments in the M&M game where a player attempted what would be considered in MHR terms a "stunt" only to be told there would be some sort of penalty.  In addition, as I mentioned previously, there was at l…

Robot Duplicate Disaster!

My regular gaming group got back together Friday to once again play the Ultimate Posse with Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.  I'll freely admit I lifted much of the adventure from "The Protean Plot" by Green Ronin Games.

The game began with a bit of a transition scene where the team was contacted by the Ferret, who had escaped the demonic invaders.  He was able to tell them that the home dimension of the demons was Stygia, which Abrasax said he would research.

Suddenly, the Posse gets a call from the police chief that a group of metahumans is breaking into Genesis Technologies (home of Lancelot, a rival "hero").  The group of metahumans is the Multipower Gang, and the Posse (wondering where Lancelot might be) heads over and mixes it up with the power-shifting thieves.  The Multipower Gang proves to be a bit of a challenge for the group, stressing out Dr. Mind and injuring others, and right before they are overcome one of the Gang attacked the group with an area gas c…

Second round of dungeon tiles and the second Bones figure

I made another round of simple Hirst Arts/Taskboard floor tiles for my "when am I ever going to use this?" modular dungeon.


It doesn't look like much since it is virtually identical to the previous batch, but when you put the two together, you can get this...

A 40' by 50' room.  Or you can make something a little more interesting like this...

Also included in that picture is the second of my Reaper Bones set that I have painted up, a harpy.

I'm continuing to make progress on a project that doesn't really seem to have a specific goals.  But I'm enjoying the work, and every now and then think about a fantasy game again.
Editor's note: to the one who will ask--I did file this post while on vacation.  I took the photos in advance and loaded them up in a draft.  So don't worry--I'm relaxing!

First modular dungeon pieces

So in my last post I mentioned I was putting together some simple pieces to use as a modular dungeon made from Hirst Arts and Taskboard.  Here are the pieces, having been sprayed with black primer.


Now I paint the pieces using cheap house paint purchased at a local hardware store.  After the paint dries, I hit it with a coat of matte sealant, just to help prevent chipping.


Then, because I'm ridiculously anal sometimes, I cut pieces of foam sheets, the kind you can buy very inexpensively at a craft store, into small pads that will do under each floor tile section so the taskboard doesn't flake away.  Each foam pad is cut slightly smaller than the tile so it doesn't stick out.


Here's a final photo of my first batch of floor tiles, just enough to make a classic 30' by 30' room!

A little side project

I hop around a great deal from project to project.  One I've been thinking about for a while is doing yet another modular dungeon using Hirst Arts bricks and Taskboard bases.  Unlike some my previous one, I thought I would not encumber myself with walls, which both limit the use of tiles but also block player's views.  I don't really have a plan here, I thought I would just build it up and see where it goes.

More thoughts on Longevity

Well, maybe this'll turn into some sort of cross-blog dialog, but Blacksteel followed up my response to his post on in-print and out-of-print games here.  He notes several games that he really likes that didn't make it, as well as some guidelines for what makes the cut when it comes to taking up precious space on his gaming shelf.

I'll admit to being more of a collector than Blacksteel is, although having to move all my possessions three years ago has certainly blunted it.  I gave away over 100 RPG books to the local public library as part of their youth program (some youth somewhere in Ohio might currently be playing the Hercules and Xena RPG because of me).  Nowadays the internal process for "should I buy or should I not buy this RPG" tends to go like this:

1. Am I going to run this game?
Yes: buy it.
Maybe: go to 2
No: go to 2

2. Is it something that look really interesting, like maybe I could steal something for another game?
Yes: go to 3
No: don't buy it…

A Little Different

Friday I changed up my typical RPG experience in two ways.  First, I ran Mutants & Masterminds for the first time ever. (I've never even played the game before.)  Second, there were only two players from the group, so I decided to invite one of the couples that I am hoping my compose a second group.  I then added to that mix my daughter, who has been desperate to game with a group like her older brother, and my wife (aka "The Real Irene").  So out of a group of six, only two had really gamed before.

M&M is definitely different from Marvel Heroic Roleplaying.  It didn't take long for people to figure out the rules, especially since I used the archtypes from the main rulebook which includes the quick "Offense" and "Defense" notations.  I can not figure out for the life of me why the Defense sections just don't add the 10 which is added in pretty much every combat action for which they are used.  Actually, constantly adding 15 to Damage a…

Longevity

Blacksteel over at Tower of Zenopus posted an in-depth review of a game I'm interested in, 13th Age.  13th Age is a self-proclaimed "love letter to D&D."  I've played the game, but haven't read the rules.  In my opinion, Blacksteel's most insightful reflection on the game came in the last paragraph:

The main thing I worry about with a game like this is that although it's getting a ton of attention now where will it be in a year or two? Castles and Crusades was a big deal when it came out as a lighter, more old school flavor of 3E and how active is out for it now beyond occasional adventures? How many groups are playing it? I loved Arcana Unearthed and later Arcana Evolved and they had a good run for maybe 4 years and now there's not much support at all. Book of Iron Might was the same way. With everything from Numenera next month to the ramping up of "next" over the next year to the ongoing Pathfinder juggernaut, I'm not sure how well…

Mi Gran Sueno, one step closer

As I've mentioned earlier, I like the idea of bringing new people into roleplaying games, or bringing people back into RPG's that had dropped away.  So I've been pretty excited that, through some conversation, that four or five people have expressed an interest in getting together and gaming with me.  That's in addition to the six I already game with in my regular game (a.k.a. "The Ultimate Posse").

So here's my idea.  Two groups, one world.  The world shows signs of the other group, everything from articles in newspapers to dead orcs in rooms with their pockets emptied.  One step forward, it would be cool to have players move from group to group, sometimes because they missed their own team's gaming session to actually re-shuffling teams now and then.

Now there are lots of ways to do this, and I spent some time weighing each of them: fantasy, science fiction, even a conspiracy/horror game ala Fringe or The X-Files.   But when I balanced what I though…

KantCon 2013

In the past couple of years, I have had mixed success with Kansas City's RPG convention KantCon.  Most of these problems revolved around the fact that a) I went on Friday, b) I didn't pre-register for games, c) I brought my kids.  Last Friday I only did a) and b), since the kids are visiting grandparents right now.  I also needed to be back by the evening, so I was really only able to participate in a morning and afternoon session.

Thankfully this year I managed to get into a game in both sessions, including one I really wanted to play, namely 13th Age.  13th Age is a fantasy RPG derived from D&D by Pelgrane Press.  It's got some big names behind it and a lot of publicity and support on the interwebs, and despite the fact that I own a dozen fantasy heartbreakers already, I was interested in giving it a try.

I'm particularly grateful that I was given a seat at the table, given that I was the ninth person to show up for the game.  With that many players and just a tw…

Arrius the Black, Skeletal Champion

So a while back I, like many other people, ordered the Reaper Bones Kickstarter at the Vampire level, also opting for the additional red dragon and Cthulhu miniature.  Well they arrived, and I've started interspersing my larger army projects with the occasional fantasy miniature.

The first one I have painted was a pretty easy one--mostly armor and flowing cape.  The detail is surprisingly good given the medium, with one exception.  The sword wielded by the bearded giant is terribly bent.  I understand you can reshape the white plastic with hot water, but the sword remains very bendable and I'm not sure would retain the new shape.
No real idea about what I'm going to do with these guys just yet, except just enjoy painting all of them for years to come.

That's a lot of stuff

I haven't posted in any of my blogs for a couple of weeks, mostly because I haven't done anything particularly hobby-related in that entire time.

But, as a way of, um, kickstarting my hobby enthusiasm, I got my Vampire-level Reaper Bones Kickstarter package, along with the red dragon and Cthulhu upgrade.


Oh yes, and the Reaper paint set too, just for good measure.

Now I need to get going and start the 100+ miniatures involved.

Nuclear Scare [Marvel Heroic Roleplaying recap]

When last we saw our heroes... The Ferret, Abrasax, and Mr. Eternity had successfully stopped Empyrean from obtaining alien DNA from the Celestial, but only because the Celestial had mysteriously returned to life as the Dark Celestial.  Now the Dark Celestial is on the loose, and the three heroes have rounded up most of the Ultimate Posse to help.
Scene One The Ferret, Abrasax, Mr. Eternity, Samkhara, and Dr. Mind are approached at the HQ by Gen. Niles MacCauley of the USAF, who reports that the Dark Celestial is heading for the Strategic Air Command base at El Seguro.  There's a nuclear arsenal there, and MacCauley fears the worst.  After some very un-heroic dickering over what kind of future support the USAF would give to the Ultimate Posse, they head out in their new jet, which doesn't yet have a name. The team also sees news footage of Empyrean's trio of clone bodyguards--Crimson, Cobalt, and Viridian--attempt to intercept the Dark Celestial and fail.  Cobalt falls to e…

Not the Ultimate Posse's Finest Hour

Friday we played another game from our Marvel Heroic Roleplaying campaign.  Here's the recap:

Scene One

Mr. Eternity, the Ferret, and Abrasax the Guardian Gargoyle were alerted by the authorities to a break-in at a Genesis Technologies facility that manufactures military- and industrial-grade construction vehicles.  Accompanies by the new heroine the Huntress, they rushed over in their new jet (whose name hasn't quite been determined yet) and discover three supervillains--Feral, Gale Force, and Crowdsource--obviously trying to steal something.  The four heroes and three villains ended up fighting a highly destructive battle that left most the facility in ruins.  Shortly after defeating the villainous trio, Lancelot shows up, rebukes the heroes for causing so much damage, and hauls the villains off into custody.

The Huntress was being played by my daughter, who wanted to try out MHR and would help flesh out the group.  The players rolled incredibly badly, and the doom pool at the…