GenCon 2014 – Tragedy and Happiness

What an insane week and a half.

To cut to the quick of it, within ten minutes of walking into the hallowed halls of GenCon I received a tragic phone call with no way to leave or to get home.   I’m not going to go into details but I, and my family, went from looking forward to enjoying our first weekend together over games and good food to struggling through a horrendous Kobayashi Maru scenario.  Endless time on the cell phone, texting, trying to figure out a best course of action.  I did the best I could and tried to make sure my son got a good first day’s experience but I was exhausted by mid-day.  (For the record, when you don’t have a hotel room to go to, it’s very hard to find a place to cry around 25,000+ people.)  Saturday and Sunday did get better but not by much.  We weathered the storm but let’s just say I’m looking VERY forward to next year.

Directly after the Con, we returned to what we will call “the tragedy” as well as work and school.  (You know, maybe I shouldn’t call it that and instead just call it “The Blur?”)  I’m not sure I slept that much and had no time to get caught up here.  Finally, a week later, things are resolved and I can try to get things back on course!

Thoughts and Things from Gencon (some personal, some just observations)

  • Watching my son take a stutter-step upon entering the Main Vendor Hall.  He doesn’t get overwhelmed by much and having to pull him out of the stream of people so he could “take it all in” will be a highlight I carry for a long time.
  • Watching said son, within 24 hours, navigate the crazy like a pro.
  • The sheer mass and scale of the crowd was overwhelming to me on Saturday.  (Friday was bad enough with what I was dealing with but Saturday?  Yikes.)  Next year, I’ll be scheduling myself to be at a game table and NOT the vendor hall.
  • Oh my wow, the costumes!  I knew the cosplay scene had grown exponentially while I had been gone but, jeez!  It always warms my heart to see folks costuming up.  My family has recommended a possible cosplay for me and I am… considering it.
  • Food trucks?  Wow!  I remember having to run over to the Circle Mall food court for a quick, crappy meal or, alternatively, chew on a protein bar.  The lines were bad at times but we realized that if you timed it juuuuusssst right it wasn’t bad at all!
  • I was glad to see that most, if not all, computer games had been pulled out of the Vendor Hall.  I still have a bad taste in my mouth from being in a Vendor Hall and seeing walls and rows of demos of computer games while board game and RPG companies right next to them received no attention.  FYI – This is the only time and place I think I can say that I’m anti-computer game.  The computer games were in other rooms and, rightfully, given their own space.
  • Watching the Smash-up between the Gen-Con attendees and the Indianapolis Colts fans on Saturday afternoon.
  • The odd joy (and I’m not being sarcastic here) of attending the worst RPG demo sessions in my gaming history.  It was so bad it actually inspired me to start running games again! I’m sitting here laughing just writing about it!
  • I saw nothing related to FU or to Mythic in the Con schedule.  I understand that smaller independent games like that have a hard time making an impact at a Con like this but it’s got my pointed little organizer brain thinking for next year.

Finally – My number one moment of happiness was having most of my family join us on Sunday and for everyone to make the decision that GenCon would be the new location of our family reunions!  I think, somewhere, I earned yet another Geek Merit Badge.

I’ve got a few more GenCon related posts in me.  (Those will get written, hopefully, before winter.) Below are a few of my favorite pics from the GENCON 2014.  Some made it to my Instagram feed but most did not.  Enjoy!

And yes, never fear, the Supers game posts are coming very soon!





This may be the favorite of the Con. The cosplayer saw what I was going for and gave me “the look” right on time. If anyone knows the cosplayer, let me know. I would be glad to get her the full-sized image file.


The impact of this many Drow in one place made me realize how terrifying they are as opponents. Possible adventure to come?


World War 1 meets War of the Worlds!





Pardon The Interruption but, Hey, GenCon!

I just wanted to jump on here real quick and offer a sincere apology for not having a more recent post!  You see, I was surprised a few weeks ago by my middle son who decided he wanted to go Gen Con for his first time ever.  So, after much scrambling, we are headed to Gen Con in nearby Indianapolis!

GenConMy first Gencon was in 1983 when it was still being held at the University of Wisconsin.  I was halfway through high school and about to burst with excitement when I walked into the vendor hall.  I partook in a TSR sanctioned D&D tournament which showed me that railroading PC’s DOES occur at the higher game levels.  (Close to actual quote of the GM at the time.  And yes, I was so mad I STILL REMEMBER IT. “Yeah, that Revenant was supposed to come after the Ranger character in the party.  It was designed for the Ranger to die because he would be too useful later on in the adventure.  IF the party could come together there was a slight chance he could survive…” )

I was a midwestern kid from a small town and a chunk of that town thought for sure roleplaying was the work of the Devil.  I had to find my game books in a dusty hobby shop that specialized in model trains, planes and race cars.  Not that I really cared but I never knew if I was doing any of this roleplaying stuff right.  By the time that summer weekend was over, I had a pretty good idea.  I played in a double blind Gamma World miniatures battle that blew my mind.  I saw my first large scale miniatures wargame that blew my mind.  I saw the first ever fantasy wargame battle strewn out on 30 square feet of convention floor that blew my mind!

Because of my interest in art I spent a large chunk in the artist’s hall and for two days was befriended by Timothy Truman who gave me impromptu art classes.  I remember him showing me the best way to draw legs and arms.  I would take my sketchbook in and sketch next to his table and we would talk about all stuff comicy and geeky.  Needless to say — Mind blown!

I think by Sunday morning of that first GenCon my brain was completely goo.

I’m not really sure how many I’ve attended now.  I attended them in Milwaukee numerous times including one time where everything fell through and I and my friends had no where to stay!  Funny enough, I’ve attended them less now that it moved to Indianapolis and is much closer to me.   The first year it was in Indianapolis I was working from the other side of a vendor table with friend Chris Engle after becoming enamored with his Matrix games, the first story style game I ever played.  I was even pushing my first garage made RPG at the time.  After that, I would go if I could afford to drive up but not attend.  You know,  just to meet old friends who were either going as convention-goers or vendors for dinner.  I don’t think I’ve been in probably five years.

But that’s all past now because I’m headed back.  This time I get to bring the next generation along and start a whole new round of stories, adventures and shennanigans!

I’ll most likely have a post out in the week following the con.  In the meantime, if you want to see a bunch of goofy con pics from a paleo-gamer, feel free to follow me on Instagram where I’ll be posting more than my fair share!  If you’re at the Con, let me know.  I’ll be the tall, graybearded fellow walking around with a nostalgic grin!

Announcements – Annnnnnd before I forget, I’ve been working on the Super’s setting for the solo play and I’ve managed, I think, to come up with a decent hack for the FU RPG.  Very shortly I’ll be presenting that as well as an outline of the up to date gameworld.   Hang in there!

I gotta deal with this pesky game convention thing…






The Summer Arkham Twitter Log

(This was posted on the Yoteden back in the summer of 2013.  Enjoy and if you think I should do something like this again, let me know!)


Over the July 4th holiday weekend, my family reserved an afternoon and evening and busted open our copy of Arkham Horror with 2 extra expansions.  As an experiment, I started running a live-feed Twitter log of the gaming fun.  The game ended up being a total grind and lasting 9 hours.  The first tweet occurred at 2:28 PM and the final game win was announced at 11:22 PM.  We had two extended breaks in there as we had to break to stretch our legs as well as dealing with our jealous puppy who did not understand why he could not play as well. I’m betting, when you figure in the breaks, it was only 6 hours of game time. Snacks were consumed, walks were taken and, in the end, Yog-Sothoth was held back from coming into our reality.


Below I present, in order from first to last, the twitter log that was generated.  I enjoyed seeing it all together more than I thought I would and it really does work as a journal of the experience.  I see places where I wish I would have added more and ways I’ll improve it should I do something similar in the future.

Anyway, I present it here for your reading enjoyment including the pics taken and posted as part of the log.  I also removed the overly repetitive #SummerArkham hashtag I used to organize it all on Twitter.


Continue reading

Creating an NPC with Tarot Cards

(This is an old post which I am porting over here from my Yoteden blog.)

When I ran through this the first time, I used Rory’s StoryCubes to generate an NPC character for roleplaying.  This time I’ll use a 78 card tarot deck for each of the 9 items below.  I will go through each set of three elements and draw three cards.  With those three cards I’ll assign them to whichever element seems to work the best.  Once used, those cards will not be placed back in the deck.  For meanings  I’ll not only use the creative imagery of the card but also the “traditional” meaning of each of the cards as I know them.  (Important – credit where credit is due.  This set-up is not mine.  I found this as a post on Solo Nexus which I recommend you check out!)

Before we go ANY further, a personal note on tarot cards – I’ve had tarot decks in my life for several decades now.  I know them quite well.  I’ve collected a few decks and I enjoy not only the cards but their history.  Here’s the shocking statement.  Are you ready?

Tarot cards are pieces of cardboard.

They are wonderful tools to spark creativity and story creation.  When not drawing them for story and character creation they can also be handy in helping you look at a problem a little differently, changing the perspective a bit so you can see something you might have missed. Carrying a deck around with you will not get you struck by lightning or taken over by the Devil.   (From what I know of the cards chances are good it will be just the opposite.)  For this exercise I’m using a mini-deck of the Hanson-Roberts Tarot Deck that I keep handy for gaming.

Alright, that’s out of the way.

I rolled the setting from a chart over on Solo Nexus and came up with Swashbuckling Fable.  I modified this a bit to be a “Swashbuckling Fairy Tale.”  Maybe something like Snow White meets The Three Musketeers?

threemusketeersAs before, I have no idea what kind of character/NPC  is going to show up until I draw the random elements.  That being said, Here we go!

Obvious NPC Story Elements Queen of Swords, Eight of Swords, The Empress
(Looks like this NPC will be a female character just because two of these are highly feminine cards.)


1. The NPC’s role in the world: discerned by clothes, demeanor, initial introduction, etc.
Queen of Swords – A learned swords woman, very skilled and experienced warrior.  She will most often be wearing armor or a standard guard uniform when seen out and around.  Her demeanor would be very too the point and, at first, terse.

2. The NPC’s current home or home-base: learned through initial introduction, casual conversation, etc.
Eight of Swords – This was left over because the other two fell into place so easily.  This one was tough at first.  Eight of swords can indicate capture, being blocked, etc.  For some reason I think of being captured or holding things at bay and I have to go with a city guard or a county marshal.  Someone with the power to lock people up. I think this woman is a captain of the guard.  This really doesn’t go along with the image of the card but it’s the first thing that jumped into my mind.  The other idea would be someone held hostage or held against her will but it doesn’t seem right.

3. The NPC’s signature/unique talent: learned through casual conversation, simple getting-to-know-you questions,  etc
The Empress – This is a bit harder to grasp but I think this just means that once past the initial outward appearance, the PC’s would find her to be very caring and endearing.  She would show that she deeply cares about the city and the people she protects daily.  A softer side would show itself fairly quickly if the PC’s got on her good side.

Personal NPC Story ElementsEight of Rods, Six of Rods, Three of Cups


4. The NPC’s special knowledge about others: requires a bit of trust, shared view of the world, things in common, etc.
Three of Cups – I decided to go with the image on the card a bit more.  I see three women not necessarily dancing or partying (which is typical for the 3 of Cups) but standing close and perhaps talking or even whispering.  With her Empress card above I’ll say she knows a fair amount of secrets and rumors around the city.  She is trusted by many and so they share information with her.

5. The NPC’s special item/tool/useful possession: requires a bit more trust, shared view of the world, things in common, etc.
Eight of Rods – This card usually stands for movement and travel.  I would say she has a special item that allows her to move very quickly around the city.  Perhaps a magic ring or her cloak with either teleportation or speed cast onto it?  (I had thought about a flying mount but that might not be “secret” enough?)  Regardless, she has the ability to be anywhere she needs to be VERY quickly.

6. The NPC’s ally/allegiance to a group or organization: requires the certainty that the PC is not an adversary to the ally or allied group.
Six of Rods – Usually means victory or a parade.  What struck me is the man and his red cape.  I ran with it.  The Scarlet Cloaks are the city guards and they work closely with the locals to maintain order and protection.  She is quite successful at what she does, has the respect of most of the city officials and is a house hold name to many that call the city home.

Intimate NPC Story ElementsThe High Priestess, Five of Cups, Two of Swords


7. A past experience that has shaped the NPC’s current self.
Five of cups – Despair.  Loss.   This character originally started as an orphan, a poor street waif that had to struggle and live in poverty after losing her parents to either an accident or a violence.  She was adopted in her pre-teens and as she neared adulthood she was given a chance to use her toughness and intelligence in the city guard.  This is what powers her drive to care for those less fortunate.  She has been there and understands.

8. A present situation that the NPC is embroiled in that could affect the PC directly or indirectly.
The High Priestess – She is currently investigating some rumors that indicate a local female mage or priest could be involved in criminal activity.  The card indicates that this woman would have significant power herself and so would need to be approached cautiously.

9. A future goal the NPC is hoping to attain…could the PC help?
Two of Swords – The captain is having to decide whether or not to pursue further investigation of the High Priestess character. She is torn over the woman’s innocence but is unable to investigate with her guards directly.  (Perhaps she has been ordered to “back down” by politicians in the city?)  She could possibly want the PC’s to check out the Priestess character and her operation a bit more closely.  Can the PC’s find out information that would help the captain decide to push forward or to ignore the High Priestess and her organization?

And, we’re done.  We have a Captain of the Scarlet Cloaks (or possibly higher rank) who is very good at her job but also takes a nurturing, caring stance as well.   She needs a name and, of course, stats for whatever system you would like to use.  One powerful NPC that could be a player character’s best friend or worst enemy.  Not someone to trifle with at the very least!

(Post edit – Also, I’m enjoying this process so much I think I’ll continue to make NPC’s when the mood strikes me.  All NPC’s will be placed under the Category of NPC on the right hand column.  That way, over time, someone can check here if they need an NPC in a hurry!  Feel free to use them if you need them!)

PreGame Post – A Supers Sandbox

SKSuperheroesSo, it would appear I’m going to run with the Superhero story line / sandbox first.  Part of it was based on a die roll, part of it was based on comments.  I’m perfectly fine with it and am actually looking forward to it.  Important rule of gaming – If you’re not having fun, go do some chores.


This is a bit of a pre-game post.  I spent some time poking around the internet looking at some random charts.  There’s also the Superpowers Wiki where you can just hit the “Random Page” link and see what you get. (For instance, I clicked up a Pyromancer who could also make Constructs from Love.  Perhaps a villain called Burning Love?)


Continue reading

Creating an NPC with Story Cubes

(Ported over from my original blog post on my Yoteden blog.)

Over on Solo Nexus, JF put together something fun which was to create an NPC for roleplaying with  random rolls of Rory’s Story Cubes.  For those non-gamers, an NPC is a non-player character which is a story character NOT played by one of the players.  For example, the bartender at the local bar, a city guard or a player character’s family member.


This should clear things up, right?

The story cubes are nine different dice that each have a different symbol on them.  The symbols and images are what you use to tell a story.  The idea is that the image on the die can be used in any way to spur an idea for the character.  By using the dice with three sets of three questions you are able to put together a random character for the player characters to encounter.  You could also do this for a player character or for a writing exercise.  You also don’t need Story Cubes.  You could do this with any sort of randomizer.  For instance, you could use Magic the Gathering cards, Tarot cards or even “Random page” on Wikipedia.

Continue reading