Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Last day of the Dwarven Forge Kickstarter

Yes I joined the madness and got in at the 5 set (dungeon gray) level. If you like using props for your miniatures this an excellent deal especially with the stretch goals included.  I also plan on picking a few of the add-ons which will prove handy even if I don't go the full dungeon maze route.

This should prove an excellent companion to the Reaper miniatures I will be getting.

Friday, April 26, 2013

A tale of two sessions, Session 1 Swords & Wizardry

After dealing with family matters, I got back into refereeing, both the Swords and Wizardry campaign at Gold Star Anime and the Monday Night GURPS campaign using Fantasy Grounds over the internet. Both are set in the Majestic Wilderlands.

Swords and Wizardry
The last game I ran was a month ago using Champions and Hero System 5th edition. A grand finale to a excellent campaign involving the shutdown of an alien base on the moon and my son's herofactory toy subbing in as Giant Robots (capitals intended).  As a consequence all my fantasy material (both GURPS and S&W were scattered around the house). 

So I put away the Hero stuff, hoping it not another 10 year or so before I run it again, and gather all the Swords & Wizardry materials. Dang I now have four S&W print rulebooks, three of the Core version and one of the Complete version. I got the word I have four new players so I pack them all.

Also printed out some more characters sheet, and made duplicates of the cheat sheets that allow complete character gen in 20 to 30 minutes for an arbitrary number of folks.  If I still had the damn files I used to create them I would share them. Perhaps in a month or so I will spend some time recreating them and post them. With these you can jettison pre-gens and make character generation part of your game-store game or convention game.  And still need to fix the fact I haven't printed out an attribute bonus chart. Although I did finally reformatted Jeff Rient's starting XP chart from Tower of Xylarton. 

As for adventure prep I earlier adapted the X3 Curse of Xanaton for the Majestic Wilderlands so I didn't have much to do for that. So I decided to break out Dwayne's Dwarven Forge style tiles he made and give the newcomers a spectacle as the party was at the point of assaulting the Temple of Ceria. I did have to make a player map at the last minute as part of the clue to where the Shrine of Ceria was located. 

When the session started I found, I had ten players this time. About the limit I can properly handle individual roleplaying. Need to figure out a better table setup tho as jamming three together meant a bunch of space in the middle that was almost inaccessible. But on the other hand I could lay out half the dungeon with plenty of elbow space. Although I ran out of game tiles. Something I hope to fix with me backing the Dwarven Forge Kickstarter.

The adventure in this session had its ups and downs. The party succeeded but not before the Thothian Mage and the Rune-caster died due to an errant fireball. A couple of sessions back the Rune-casters in the party found that they could get runes on their bolts and arrows  and have them go off.  Naturally they gravitated to bolts and arrows with Fireball and Lightning Bolts runes.

This is not as unbalancing as it sounds due to the generous ranges the Swords and Wizardry spells already have. It is a consequence of how rune-casters, runes, and charms work in the Majestic Wilderlands. In fact it is probably sub-optimal due to the possibility of fumbling a bow or crossbow shot.

Which is what ultimately how the session ended. Since writing the Majestic Wilderlands supplement I have some up with some additional rules I use. One of them is that if you roll a natural 1 you fumble. If that occurs you roll on the following table.

1-3 You drop or lose control of the weapon and must spend the next round picking it up if you want to use it.
4-5 Your weapons breaks unless it is magical.
6 You hit yourself or a nearby party member.

In the last room where the bad guy mage was being attacked, Alaghazar the Thothian Mage decided to use a Knight Killer Crossbow and a bolt with a fireball run on it to shoot the mage. Mind you he could just activated it and cast the spell normally. But somehow in the coolness of having fireball arrows, everybody just forgot about it.  So he elected to shoot the crossbow. Now being a mage, he has a hefty penalty but all he needs to do it get into the room. Literally needing to hit a broad side of a barn.

And he rolls a 1, sigh, I tell him to roll a d6 to see what type of fumble it is.

He rolls a 6!

So not only he fumbles but manages to hit himself with it and activate the fireball.

Given that he is 7th levels the result wasn't pretty. Alaghazar and another player failed their save and died from the damage.

The rule I use you die at negative constitution starting at -3 at first level and decreasing by -3 per level until you hit your con.

Of course they were out of range of the enemy mage who teleported away to a nearby corridor. Where it just happen that the party's burglar was sneaking out. One quick backstab later and the enemy mage is eating dirt too. Which was nice as the players was pretty much taking a backseat in the adventure up to that point.

Here is a picture of everybody playing, courtesy of Jerry Humes of Gold Star Anime. Like I said before it was a big crowd with a lot of good players.

Regular readers know that I am the type of referee who likes to use miniatures. The next picture shows how I lay everything out for a game session.

The near wooden box has Dwayne of Gamer's Closet Game tiles that he made. The miniature are all in trays sorted by type. Across the aisle is my referee stuff and I use the wooden crates I carry miniatures as shelves to hold the prop trays. Finally on the left edge of the picture are the two boxes of big miniatures. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Swords & Wizardry Appreciation Day - Bodenberg Castle

Thanks for Tenkar of Tenkar's Tavern for organizing this. I chose to use Swords and Wizardry as the foundation for my Majestic Wilderlands supplement because of all the retro-clones it was the one I felt to be the closest to an ur version of the world's most popular roleplaying game. And the easiest to use as a foundation for the type of supplement I was writing. Matt Finch did a great job in writing Swords and Wizardry.

So in the spirit of Swords and Wizardry I poked around the stories and accounts of the origins of tabletop to see if there something I could use. Finally in Jon Peterson's Playing at the World I found an account of how a medieval wargame scenario called Siege of Bodenberg inspired Gygax's interested in medieval wargaming and starting one of the many chain of events that lead to the creation of tabletop roleplaying by Gygax and Arneson.

The centerpiece of the siege scenario was a vacuum formed model of a castle from a company called Elastolin. Poking around the internet I found not only images of the castle but a posting of the rules used for that scenario.

So my plan I would draw professional quality map of the castle, a ruined version, along with an adventure to accompany it. The release the whole thing under the OGL. But I had to deal with family matters of far more importance and so only got the first level done. I will continue to work on it and hopefully get it done within a few weeks.

So here is the first level of Castle Bodenberg. Click to get a larger view of it.

Once again thanks to Tenkar and Matt Finch for making Swords and Wizadry Appreciation Day happen.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Thanks for the Condolences

My family and I appreciate all the condolences here and on Google Plus. As a way of reciprocating I want to pass along a minor but interesting aspect of managing a loved estate. As gamers we deal with complex systems of rules and none is as more complicated than the legal system. Especially those areas of the law that we don't deal with regularly like inheritance.

In the United States when a person dies the traditional approach is for their assets to pass into their estate. There it goes into probate where the deceased debts are discharged and the remaining proceed divided in accordance with the will or by the rules of the state if there is no will.

In addition to this there is often things like life insurance that pay money on a person's death. In contrast to the above the money does not go through probate but instead is paid to the named beneficiaries. Only when none of the beneficiaries are alive does the money go into the estate and has to go through probate.

The process of probate does take time and often a source of a stress during a difficult time. When my mother died a few years back the process was simple as the law provides for an easy transfer of assets between spouses. But now with my father death, my family has to face the full process.

Traditionally probates can be avoided by the use of trusts and similar setups but those are often not easily available to those of modest means. And trusts comes with some restrictions while minor are a pain to deal with while alive.

And thanks to the good advice of my family's lawyer it is turning out to be a lot easier than the traditional probate process. The reason is that the idea of named beneficiaries has spread beyond insurance and into many areas like financial accounts and even the house deeds. By having beneficiaries the asset or account in question immediately transfers to those on the list upon presentation of a death certification. For house some states allow the transfer of the deed to a beneficiary deed which means the house will also immediately transfer to the people on the list.

When my family setup this up with my father it was like OK the lawyer said this was a good idea so lets do it". But it one thing to read about it and quite another to experience it. It really made this often stressful aspect of  a loved one passing away easy as it can be. I recommend for yourself to consult with your family lawyer and see how much you can take advantage of this in your state.

Once again thanks for all the condolences they were much appreciated.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

The Story of a Creator

My father passed away on April 6th and my family concluded the memorial and wake this weekend. While it sucks to lose my dad, we all pulled together and having everything well planned really has made this as smooth as these things can go. My father was a great guy and I was able to use what little skill I have in writing to come up with the following.

The Story of a Creator

James A.  Conley

In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth.  And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep.  And the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters.  And God said, let there be light and there was light. 

Genesis describes God creating the world in six days and resting on the seventh.  I believe that God has a special place in his heart for those who use his gifts to create.

James A.  Conley was a creator, starting with a new type of water jet engine for powerboats to a better way of cutting insulation for heating duct.  He has patented six inventions and implemented numerous innovations during his time as President of Vicon Incorporated.   His ideas and inventions led to the employment of nearly two dozen people which helped create the means to provide for their families and to pursue their dreams.   His legacy lives on in the products and employees of Plasma Automation and Vicon Machinery.  Together employing nearly 50 people and with customers across the globe.

But my father lived life beyond his inventions.  He was born in 1927 to Adele B. and James G. Conley.  He grew up on Hiawatha Street on the North Side of Pittsburgh, PA.  He fondly remembers playing with his neighborhood friends, scaling down the cliffs to the Allegheny River in the summer and sledding on the nearby hills in the winter.   He enjoyed the visits to his beloved Boucek grandparents.

Later his brother Robert J.  Conley was born and the family spent their summers in tents and cabins around Geneva-on-the-Lake in Ohio.   As he grew older he began to help his father with his coal stoker business.  My father graduated high school during World War II and joined the Navy in 1945.  He was in San Francisco when V-J day was announced and he remembered fondly the ensuing celebrations.

He returned back east and the family moved to Miami, Florida. There my father’s love of boating, especially powerboats, blossomed and he started racing powerboats for the Miami Outboard Club along the east coast.   It was during this time that my grandparents bought a plot of a land and some cottages on Conneaut Lake in order to rent them.  After helping to get the rental business going he briefly attended college and then became a sheet metal worker.  He still helped his family from time to time and developed a close knit group of friends at Conneaut Lake.    He was known for his sailing parties.  While not a drinker he was known to be a fun guy to hang around with.

It was during this time, that he met my mother at Conneaut Lake and fell in love.  They married and five years later my sister was born.  Later came my brother David, and then me.   My father formed Vicon Inc with a friend and when their plan for marketing a boat engine fell through my father took over sole ownership of the company.  After a decade of travelling to various work sites as a journeyman sheet metal worker, he reopened Vicon as a fiberglass fabrication shop.

During this time he worked with my mother as coach of the YMCA/YWCA swimming team.   Not only coaching my sister but an entire generation of Meadville swimmers.  He helped the YWCA build the lockers for their new pool and I remember the signatures of both my parents and my sister being placed on tiles on the wall of the swimming pool.   Later he became part of the Meadville Figure Skating club and began to skate competitively.

Then one day in the early 80s my father was drawing out a piece of ductwork for a small job he took on as a favor for a friend.  My brother walked by and saw what my father was doing and said that his new Radio Shack Model I computer could plot that out ten times faster than my father could.  My father laughed at this so my brother looked at my father's books and then proceeded to create a program that plotted the very pattern that my father was making on printer paper.  It was not just ten times faster, it was a hundred times faster.

Impressed, my father and brother went to a machinery show and saw how others were using computers and mechanized plasma torches to layout and cut patterns for heating and air conditioning ductwork.  My brother David felt the programs he saw were poorly written, my father thought the machines were poorly made and way too expensive for what they were doing.  Together my father and my brother built the first Vicon HVAC plasma cutting machine.

From then on the business of Vicon Inc was no longer fiberglass but building and selling plasma metal cutting machines.  The company struggled in its early years but with my mother running the business and sales end, my dad building machines, and my brother writing software and soldering electronics the company soon carved out a successful niche in the industry.   Today, the company they founded continues in operation and is #1 in its market.

In retirement, my father traveled with my mother around the world, knew the joys of his grandchildren, James and Gregory, bought and operated a boat, and once again relaxed with a close knit group of friends.  He enjoyed the company of his son-in-law Kevin and his daughter Jaime.

Yes my father was a creator, not just of metal and livelihoods, but of love and family.   He taught others how to excel.  Not in just making a better machine but how to better themselves.   Most of all despite whatever setbacks he suffered, he never gave up, he always pushed on, he was always thinking of ways to move forward.

To create, once more, again.

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Setting Scourge of the Demon Wolf in the Wilderlands of High Fantasy

My Majestic Wilderlands setting uses a modified map and expanded scale (12.5 miles per hex)

However my Scourge of the Demon Wolf adventure/supplement can be used in the Wilderlands of High Fantasy.

Set it up as follows on the CSIO Map 1 (JG), Map 5 (Necromancer)

  • Kensla in hex 2329 to the northwest of Dearthmead village and near Herald Peak, and south of Green Gate Passing. 
  • Denison's Crossing in hex 2428
  • The Golden House in hex 2328
  • Put the rest of the locales in the same relative positions around those three locales.
  • Then change the hook to from Baron Micheal to Lord Oramek of Dearthmead.
A Map

Monday, April 1, 2013

A sales suggestion for OSR Publishers

So I went to one of my favorite game stores to sell copies of Bat in the Attic products. Sadly he wouldn't buy any as nothing is selling for tabletop roleplaying games except Paizo Pathfinder products. He was quite apologetic as he bought from me numerous times in the past. What was selling was causal boardgames like Munchkin and Settlers of Catan.

So Bummer and while we was talking about the recent Worldwide Tabletop Day, he mentioned Free RPG. That got me think and I just gave him the three copies I had to throw in the Free RPG Day pile. Then when driving home I realized that Hey!  I could do this for all the other game stores I am in contact with.

The downside of Free RPG is it requires a sizable print run at a considerable cost, for us OSR publishers, to get a product in there. The advantage is that is goes to every store on that list. But it doesn't have to be an all or nothing affair. The cost of say 15 copies of a print on demand book for the author is often very affordable allowing him to go to the gamestores that knows him and ask to see if they would include it in their Free RPG pile of stuff. Just be polite and prepared for a no. And remember to put in a flyer or card with how interested customers can find your Internet store.  For example this OSR Primer I made.

When you are in Phoenix Arizona stop by the Imperial Outpost and see if we can boost the sales of Tabletop RPGS. The owner is a nice guy and very knowledgable about gaming.