Showing posts from 2018


For the time being, I've moved my blogging here:

Managing time

So far, my decision to use Waterdeep: Dragon Heist  appears to be a wise one.  The group is enjoying the rich tapestry of personages the book has to offer, and I find myself freed up from stressing about what to do next.  Without getting into any spoilers, the group is in the second chapter of the adventure, a curiously low-key exploration phase before beginning ratcheted back up in chapter three to a pace that will continue for the rest of the book.  The long-time GM in me is mildly disappointed that I'm not creating my own material, but this has given me the time to focus on a lot of other projects, including renovating the game room.  I will have to see if I transition from Dragon Heist  to Dungeon of the Mad Mage .  In November two of my players will have a baby, while after Christmas break another player's schedule changes so he is no longer available on my game night.  That leaves me with three players, all youth rather than adults.  At that point I either run with the th

The Heist Begins

This post may contain spoilers to the D&D Adventure "Waterdeep: Dragon Heist" I think the last time I used a pre-generated adventure was the prior time I ran D&D a couple of years ago, and that was an old Goodman Games module for 3E that I updated for 5E (which wasn't without its challenges).  But with several of our regular GM's in my gaming group unavailable, but my still having a lot on my own plate, I thought I would consider doing it again, only this time trying out one of WotC's up-to-date publications. After doing some research, I decided on their most recent product, Waterdeep: Dragon's Heist .  I'm a big fan of "caper" movies and the whole premise seemed to be a nice change from your typical murder-hoboing.  The whole adventure takes place in a city, there's a ton of investigation and roleplaying, and it serves as the prequel to their release of the latest iteration of the Undermountain megadungeon, which is being relea

The End of the World 2018

It has been years since I joined my Ohio friends for their annual three-day RPG micro-con called "End of the World" or EOW.  They have literally been doing this event for 29 years, and have it down to a science.  This past weekend was EOW, and I was able to make it out to Ohio to join them for three days of gaming one-shots all featuring their homegrown (and somewhat suspect) system. One of the cool things about EOW is that you can end up with a pretty wide variety of scenarios, each run by a different member of the group.  The first one was a post-apocalyptic adventure where a group of villagers have to travel beyond the valley into the greater, scarier world to try to find a cure for a plague killing off their tribe.  The second was set in 1959, with the PC's being a combination of FBI and CIA agents and the staff of a powerful congressman trying to prevent an attack by satanic Nazis on Nikita Kruschev's visit to Disneyland in California (a visit which nearly happ

Dark Matter, by Phil Cho

I've featured Phil Cho's work on my blog before.  I'm a big fan, and frequently am inspired by his work to create superheroes or villains for my own campaigns. I thought it was only right, and a great way to make a present for my daughter, to commission him to draw her character in our Champions Now campaign.  So, presenting, Dark Matter!

Champions Now Ep. 5: Villain Team Up!

As the days pass at Waterford College, Jackie begins to develop the idea of her heroic identity, "Ultraviolet" and how she might use it to further her own agenda.  But before that can get too far, Professor Richter introduces a guest to the Guided Studies class: a supervillain named the White Flame.  The White Flame is part of Raven, an elitist group of European nobility committed to reestablishing monarchies throughout the continent "since it appears democratic rule as failed."  Richter explains that while most of the students already are affiliated with supervillain organizations, part of the what the Guided Studies program does is help young supervillains build networks with other factions.  As such, the students will be proving themselves to the While Flame by stealing the most impressive object they can find within 24 hours. The White Flame, art by Phil Cho Jackie is surprised when she is approached after class by her old classmate/rival Bronze Behemoth,

Champions Now Ep. 4: Enter Ultraviolet

My daughter and I played our fourth session of the solo Champions Now campaign set in my daughter's "Dark Matter Universe" featuring the novice super-villain/unwilling superhero Dark Matter.  In the last session Dark Matter had ended up fighting alongside local superhero to fight a monster threatening her college campus.  In the process, she's being touted as a new superhero in the community. In this session, Jackie (Dark Matter's secret identity) finds herself being asked out on a date by fellow supervillain-in-training Joseph Kane, aka Ronin.  Later Kane calls to say he hasn't seen his roommate, another supervillain called The Face.  Jackie, who has always had a bit of a soft spot for The Face, scours the campus, eventually finding him in conversation with two mysterious figures who are clearly bullying him into being part of a job. Ronin, by Phil Cho After doing some research and talking to some other people, Jackie finds out that The Face is p

Champions Now Ep. 3: Plague

Between the last gaming session of Champions Now with my daughter and this one, she hatched a pretty inventive plan to help Dark Matter out of her mistaken identity problem.  Because the mysterious attacker on Waterford College's campus had similar powers to a character from her graphic novel, a young man named Plague, she decided to ask that character (as basically an NPC) to help her out. The plan was this: Plague would show up, shoot a video claiming that the attacks on the campus were the work of a rival, and that he had attacked Captain Hollywood in an attempt to hunt down the monster.  Furthermore, he would state he was giving up on the chase and leaving town (hopefully getting Hollywood to stop looking for Dark Matter).  In turn, Dark Matter would continue looking for the monster. Things, however, did not go as planned.  Plague was captured by Captain Hollywood leaving town.  And when Dark Matter freed Plague from UNTIL custody, Captain Hollywood managed to find the mons

Champions Now Ep. 2: Mistaken Identity

My one-on-one Champions Now campaign with my daughter had its second adventure.  It began with her PC, Jackie "Dark Matter" Lee having the usual college experience: suffering through boring classes with her frenemy Ashley "Dark Elf" Mason, awkwardly talking to a boy she likes (Ben "the Face" Rodriguez), and fending off the unwanted advances of another supervillain classmate (Joseph "Ronin" Kane). But all the teen drama is interrupted when several students at Waterford College are found suffering from a mysterious malady that leaves them weak and sickly.  Jackie suspects her friend Plaque from her old school, but discovers a strange, tentacled monster is stalking the campus instead.  Unfortunately Jackie, in her Dark Matter costume, is spotted near one of the victims by Captain Hollywood, a minor local superhero.  Now she is a prime suspect in the attacks and dangerously close to having the Guided Studies program exposed. Captain Hollywood,

Champions Now: Ep. 1 Welcome to Waterford

Macy and I had our first Champions Now session, featuring her supervillain/heroine Dark Matter. The story was that Jackie Lee, scion of an Asian supervillain crime cartel, has been forced by her parents to miss a summer vacation and instead spend the semester at Waterford College where she will take several classes including her "Guided Studies" program in villainy.  Waterford is a small, liberal arts college in New England, a long way from her home in California. Jackie is introduced to many new people, including her dorm resident assistant Kirk and one of her roommates Indu.  Her villainy class is taught by the strict but helpful Professor Monique Richter.  Her fellow students are Bedlam, a female telekinetic who appears unstable Dark Elf, a feral supernatural creature and snobby girl who hates that she and Jackie have similar names Bronze Behemoth, another student from her old university and obnoxious frat bro Ronin, a handsome martial artist and gadgeteer, but

In which I run a teen superhero soap opera

My daughter Macy agreed to help me playtest the new Champions Now  rules.  We decided to set the campaign in the fictional superhero universe of the graphic novel she's writing, an untitled work featuring the main character, Dark Matter (I may end up calling the setting "the Dark Matter Universe" or DMU). The premise of Macy's graphic novel is that powerful and wealthy supervillains have arranged with universities and college across the country to educate their offspring in the ways of supervillainy secretly in concealed elective classes.  Thus Dark Matter, in her secret identity of Jackie Lee, is a regular Asian-American college student with a dorm room, roommates, dating drama, etc. but on the side is trained to be a supervillain along with several other students including Bronze Behemoth, Plague, and several others. So my campaign doesn't interfere with her graphic novel in terms of continuity, we decided to set the Champions Now game during a "semeste

Champions Now: a first look and the first PC

While the final product is theoretically about five months away, those of us who Kickstarted the quasi-retro-clone of Champions 3rd Edition called Champions Now  got the files of the old editions of the game plus the playtesting document.  Champions 3rd Edition was the first edition of Champions I owned and had a major impact on my high school gaming until I went to college and discovered the famous 4th Edition/Hero Games "Big Blue Book," which became the core of my roleplaying experiences for years. Taking another look at the third edition, I was filled with a huge sense of sentimentality, as well as a bit of appreciation for the much more simplistic rules in comparison to 4th Edition.  Gone are all the perks, talents, contacts, etc. that allowed Hero Games to be used for non-supers games (or detail supers ones).  Back was the steep Endurance cost that could leave a hero gasping for air after going full-bore for a couple of actions. But this is a time for playtesting

Blades in the Dark: A Piece of the Action

As I become more familiar with the rules for Blades in the Dark , a gloompunk fantasy RPG where the PC's play a starting gang of scoundrels, I have begun to really appreciate how much gameplay is taken up with more than just immediate actions. Basically, in addition to just doing the heists, capers, assassinations, or other immediate criminal activities, the PC group also has to target other groups to increase their reputation, manage a cohort of NPC's lackeys, maintain and expand a hideout, and move into neighboring territories to increase opportunities.  This is on top of doing some abstract bookkeeping of resources, including deciding what you want to keep in liquid assets and what you want to sock away for your PC's eventual retirement.  Oh, and while you're at it, make sure that each PC spends some time engaging in whatever their vice-like activity might be in order to help relieve stress. A typical BitD character managing their gang.  Also what you get when

Blades in the Dark: Someone Else's Opus

My gaming group decided to give Evil Hat's Blades in the Dark  a quick try.  The first session was last Friday, mostly spent introducing the group to the rules and the PC and gang creation system.  The initial PC's include A Leech specializing in pseudo-science technology A Whisper who can influence the weather A Cutter who is a former merchant marine A Lurk who can briefly enter the ghost realm And a Slide who is a professional con artist For a gang, they decided to be Smugglers, which I thought of as being a fairly "safe" choice and easiest to stay on the morally unobjectionable side (versus say, a Cult or Hawkers, who are vice peddlers).  Some of the younger players also picked fairly "soft" vices, like being obligated to their family instead of gamblers or drug addicts. Photograph by Orla on Deviant Art.  There is no shortage of possible group photos online for this game. I suspect that the game will likely be more of a "Han Solo

The 11th Hour for Champions Now

I would hate to see someone's pet project almost make it to the finish line but suddenly falter.  Hero Games' retro-clone of the Champions RPG called "Champions Now" is (at the moment of the writing of this blog post) at $18,459 of a $20,000 goal.  For $30 you get a physical and digital copy of the rules, which is a pretty good deal.  I'm personally interested in this project because I thought that later iterations of the Hero System/Champions have become a larger, more complex mess.  For example, in the most current version of Champions you build starter PC's on a 400 point base, rather than 250. With a little over two days left, why not take a look?  You can find out more here .

Father's Day recap

Happy belated Father's Day to all the fathers, step-fathers, teachers, mentors, and other people who identify as male and have chosen to take on the role of caring and nurturing children. My own children were very sweet and generous this year.  My son bought me Teen Titans: The Silver Age Vol. 1  which I'm enjoying reading for all the campy, hip teen drama. Speaking of superhero nostalgia, I also decided over the weekend to back the Hero Games Kickstarter for Champions Now , which basically looks to be a "Champions Ed. 3.5" where they update the game but don't take it all the way to being the universal system that was the Big Blue Book.  Unfortunately with just a few days to go and only barely past the halfway mark, I'm not sure this one is going to come to pass.  I've super-curious about it looks should it make it.  I liked the earlier editions of Champions, and there were whole swaths of the Hero System that largely went untouched in most Champion


What do you do when you tell yourself you should dedicate more time to blogging right when you're not doing much in regards to the subject of the blog? Just write stuff, I guess. Yesterday I saw on Facebook that the local high school had a D&D club who was doing a fundraiser by selling shirts, so I went over and bought three for myself and the kids.  The young people I met were really friendly, and I think a little surprised.  In my work clothes I am the most ordinary looking person: middle aged, average height, nondescript dress and appearance.  But get me talking about D&D and my gaming group, etc. and I'm definitely a gaming geek through and through.  As I said the kids seemed really friendly and I wish I had met more people like that thirty years ago when I got into this pasttime.  Plus the shirts were cool and for a good cause. My current campaign is taking a few weeks off.  May is always a busy month here, and this year my son is graduating from high school.

Allergic Reactions

I've been trying to get back into the swing of writing more, which of course means I need to find things to write about. A couple of weeks ago I had a conversation with a core member of my gaming group, not to mention the father of another member of my gaming group, over the issue of his having increasingly allergic reactions to being in my house.  He's got issues with pet dander, and I recently added a second pet to my house.  He is especially allergic to cats, and very soon I'll be adding those to my house as well.  The upshot is that in a matter of months, he and his son will no longer be able to game about my house. This isn't a huge deal--there is another venue where we can gather to game--but I've gotten used to having access to all my gaming supplies when I run a game, such as miniatures, terrain, etc. not to mention a kitchen where I usually make dinner.  When my friend isn't coming to a session, I can still play at home, but it has me thinking about

Fieldstone Modular Dungeon Phase Two built

I finished the second part of my fieldstone modular dungeon, made with Hirst Arts blocks.  The second part includes four 15' hallways (one square=five feet) six 10' hallways four doorways three pillars two 30' by 30' rooms two 20' by 20' rooms with two entrances--one with the entrances on opposite walls, the other on adjacent walls The idea behind the second phase was to obviously add some much-needed variety to the first part of the dungeon, and some larger rooms that accommodate a normal-sized adventuring party better.  Next up is the three layers of painting.

Ergon Game Map and Gaming Recap

Click from a larger pic Recently my gaming group has had to change the venue of our sessions because I am getting several cats in the near future and have two players who are very, very allergic.  This is kind of a bummer for me, because I like gaming in my own house and have been building a very cumbersome modular dungeon to use in my games that I do no want to lug around from place to place. So to resolve my immediate issues regarding having a more mobile gaming set-up, I invested in an Ergon Gaming Mat that I spotted on an ad from Amazon.  I have a Chessex game mat, the kind that folds up and takes all kind of punishment, but I was curious about what a more flexible silicone mat might be able to do.  In addition to having the normal grid on one side, it also had hexes on the other (which suited my constant dreams of running Champions again).  The mat showed the dry-erase marker clearly and could be rolled up, even squished with no signs of damage.  Using a dry paper towel d

Suicide Squad: Hell to Pay

I tried to avoid spoilers to this movie, but if you think I didn't, my apologies in advance. It's been a while since I've reviewed something, so I thought I'd give my handful of readers my take on the new DC animated movie Suicide Squad: Hell To Pay For those familiar with the earlier animated Suicide Squad movie Assault on Arkham , I should tell you that this is not a sequel to that movie but rather follows the DC animated movie Flashpoint , a fact which isn't revealed until pretty late in the movie.  That's too bad, because I thought Assault on Arkham was a great movie and vastly superior to the live-action film.  The real giveaway that the two are not related is that Killer Frost, theoretically killed in Assault on Arkham , appears in Hell to Pay  but with a different secret identity and costume (for those keeping track, the AoA version is Louise Lincoln, the HtP version is Crystal Frost). Hell to Pay is a pretty standard Suicide Squad plotline: th

The Mighty Crusaders

I've really let my writing slow down, so I thought I'd expound upon some things that I like that are on my mind lately.  One of these is The Mighty Crusaders. My interest in the comic book team The Mighty Crusaders goes back not to the original team, but to the brief period when DC Comics re-envisioned the former Archie Comics characters as part of their Impact Comics line from 1991 to 1993.  Despite DC's goal of reading younger views with more kid-friendly story-lines and direct-to-newstand sales, as a college student I liked the Impact line for several reasons. (Side note: DC Comics also took another property they owned outright, Charleston Comics, and used those characters as the basis for the Watchmen .) First, it was fun getting into an entire comic book universe on the ground floor, one which appeared to have little-to-no backstory and every character was just having its start.  Second, with the Iron Age in full swing, I appreciated the more Silver Age-style stori


For the past few months I have been gaming in my living room, rather than in the dedicated space in my basement.  The reasons were manifold: it is much colder in my basement, I no longer had to be mindful of a spouse who didn't participate in gaming, and the basement was a major mess from all the chaos of my ex-wife moving out. But time has passed, Spring is here, and I'm ready to get my gaming room back to being a gaming room.  Or better yet, even a better room than before.  There's a lot of old toys the kids no longer use and other assorted junk down there as well.  So I will be unloading unwanted miniatures, manky terrain, and RPG's that will never see the light of day in the next few weeks. What will be tricky will be figuring out what falls into that RPG category.  A few days ago I was at Half Price Books and spotted a Player's Handbook  from the 3.5 Edition.  Now these are pretty rare, and there is a definite crowd who favors that edition over others.  I h

Into the Woods

After three straight levels of dungeon crawling, I decided I wanted to do something different with my most recent D&D session.   First, I wanted to get out of the dungeon.  Second, I wanted a little plot and less wandering monster stabbing. The players had been asking for a place that the PC's could own, arguing that with all the gold they were getting, some place must be available in a small, rundown village.  So I decided to give them one, complete with an infestation of monsters and a yard full of trouble. Bugbears assault the only tenant the PC's have: a charcoaler living in the forest. Need to get rid of the owlbear squatting in their place. All in all it wasn't too bad.  I was surprised how little actually happened--perhaps combat was going slowly, but the good news is that means I have plenty of material for next time. In the meantime, I'm trying to figure out if I want to do the April Blog-a-thon.  When I have done it successfully, I have done

Fieldstone Phase Two WIP rooms

Phase Two of my fieldstone modular dungeon project basically adds more rooms with more options, as well as some shorter hallway pieces and some doorways.  I've finished constructing the four rooms in Phase Two. Two 20' by 20' rooms, with two exits, one with the exits on opposite walls, the other adjacent. Two 30' by 30' rooms.  The recesses in the room on the right will have small pedestals in them, to be added later after painting. I'm almost out of plaster, so I'll need to order more before I can too much farther.  Comments welcome!

Three levels down

So far the D&D mega-dungeon campaign has been running pretty smoothly.  For those who missed the earlier posts, this campaign is a fairly straightforward one featuring a dangerous, multi-level dungeon buried deep between the ruins of a destroyed manse.  The local community has suffered the deprivations of the dungeon's inhabitants for years, and now the heroes are there to clean house. There's seven players, but I've decided to limit the table to four each gaming session.  With two sessions a month, everybody gets a chance (with one person getting two chances, a privilege I rotate around the group). We are on the third level of the dungeon, with the group just having hit level three.  The engineer in me (I won't use the hackneyed and callous "OCD" joke) has each level having enough XP in encounters in it to advance the group a single level.  The downside is that sometimes the group has skipped encounters, etc. so the bookkeeping still has to be done.

Fieldstone Phase One Completed

I've finished the highlight coat on the pieces of the first phase of my fieldstone modular dungeon.  The highlight layer changes the appearance pretty significantly. I used the pieces in level one of my "Down Among the Dead Men" D&D Megadungeon campaign, and they worked pretty well.  You can't do super-elaborate layouts with the pieces, but it's only the first phase. One possible configuration So what's next in Phase 2?  Primarily building up the number and variety of rooms available.  Here's the list: Two 20' by 20' rooms, one with two doors on opposite sides and the other with two doors on two adjacent sides Four 15' hallway pieces Four additional corner pieces Six 10' hallway pieces Two 30' by 30' rooms Six modular doors I've already begun building the Phase 2 pieces, so updates should be forthcoming.

Fieldstone Phase One mid-tone painted

Last night I got the first phase of my fieldstone modular dungeon painted with its mid-tone color, "Gleaming Tan" by Valspar.  The lighter color really makes a difference.  There is just one more layer of paint after this one--a highlight layer of bone white. I've already begun work building the second phase of the dungeon--mostly larger rooms with more options. Comments welcome!

Two new campaigns: Unity and D&D

The past couple of weeks saw the gaming group launch two new games--one just in the trial period, the other for a longer haul. My friend John ran Unity , which is still in Beta from a Kickstarter project.  The game is a techno-fantasy RPG heavily influenced by sources like Final Fantasy and RWBY.  There's a lot of anime/cinematic action with over-the-top powers and a strong reward for colorful descriptions of what your PC is doing.  We played the sample game in the world of RWBY, which is a favorite of mine and the kids.  It's a little reminiscent of 4th Ed D&D with at-will powers, powers that drain a pool of points (e.g. mana or focus) and daily abilities.  I kind of like the popcorn style of 4E and this was a good lighthearted game.  Hopefully I can provide a more in-depth review later. I also kicked off my D&D campaign "Down Among the Dead Men," a gothic-horror megadungeon.  Looks like I have seven players, which I'll cull down to five at a time

Fieldstone Phase One basecoated

I have all the pieces from Phase One of the fieldstone modular dungeon painted with the darkest basecoat.  The pieces will have three layers: a dark layer painted over the entire thing ("Cowboy Boots" from Valspar), a terracotta-colored main layer that shows the dark color in the crevices, and a bone-colored highlight layer.

The Fieldstone Modular Dungeon

In the past, I have built a modular dungeon, which for those who don't know is a terrain collection used to depict a stereotypical dungeon layout for a fantasy roleplaying game.  I use pieces cast from Hirst Arts molds.  My previous one was primarily done with the Smooth Floor Tile and Wizard Wall molds, and was composed of small pieces that required a lot of assembling.  That almost took up too much time and stalled gameplay. I decided that I would build another dungeon, one that was less flexible than the gothic modular one, but easier to set up during the game.  I also decided I would use a different mold series from Hirst Arts.  I went with the "fieldstone" series of molds, which are on oldie but a goodie when it comes to Hirst Arts.  The accessories are not as detailed or numerous as the gothic line, but look good and are easy to cast. In planning the project, I went with phases of development, with the idea that I could expand the series in steps as I went alon

Two weeks to build a campaign--GO!

The title pretty much says it all. In my last post I was all "oh there's nothing going on and what am I going to blog about?"  Then one of the two people planning on running a game in my gaming group has decided to postpone his plans until later this year.  The other GM is running a game with a small, limited number of players, so the torch has been passed (back) to me to run something for my big, honking, inconsistent gaming group! So the first session will be sometime in late January, which means I've got a few weeks to pull something together.  I'm pretty sure I'm ready to stop running Bash , because it is just not holding the group's attention.  Or rather, some people are into it, but many are not. With the other game being Star Trek , I'm loathe to run science fiction, to avoid comparisons, although running a game featuring the decimated Resistance in Star Wars sounds like a lot of fun.  I've found that those games are hard to run wi

2017 in review

Eighteen posts.  Which is, to date, the most sparse amount of production I've had since the blog began.  There were literally months (e.g. May, September) when I didn't post at all. And I can not even claim I was busy on other blogs, since my companion blog to this one, The Army Collector , had virtually no posts to speak of. The short reason I've mentioned before: I got divorced, moved twice, had my life turn upside-down six or seven times, etc.  I did, in fact, do some gaming in there.  Ran quite a few sessions of Bash , played in an old WEG Star Wars campaign, Baker Street , and LUG's Star Trek RPG.  But I tend to write less as a player than as a GM, because I'm uncomfortable speaking about other people's games lest I appear critical of my friends. And really, they are all doing a very good job, with their own style of play. So what happens in 2018? I'm continuing to work on a large modular dungeon based on the Hirst Arts fieldstone line of mo